18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Recently, there have been two very severe cyclones in Queensland, each of which caused tremendous damage and rendered many hundreds of people homeless. The Queensland Government has granted financial assistance to distressed persons, and I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth also willmake a grant for the same purpose.
Mr.CHIFLEY.- Local catastrophes of the kind which have occurred in Queensland are usually regarded as the concern of the State Government, which provides such financial assistance as is required. In the case of grave disasters, however, the Commonwealth sometimes comes to the help of a State, and if the Queensland Government asks the Commonwealth for assistance in this instance, the request will be seriously considered.
– I desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister about the appointment of Mr. Justice Reed as Director-General of Security. Does the appointment indicate an expansion of the Security Service on the lines of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America, or in accordance with some other method which has proved successful in Englishspeaking countries? Will the activities of the new service he confined to defence projects, or will it conduct a drive against Communistssuch as that now being undertaken in other democratic countries? If that has not yet been considered, will the Prime Minister direct the energies of this new or unproved security service into the channels I have mentioned?
– I am not quite sure how the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America is organized. Mr. Justice Reed has been appointed to take charge of the Security Service, which will cover a very wide range of activities. I am certain that no gaps will be left in our security measures. As the honorable member knows, it is not usual to discuss the detailed activities of a security service. Much of the value of such a service lies in the fact that it works quietly. Members of the organization should not be unduly prominent at cocktail parties, but should devote themselves to the tasks allotted to them. I do not propose to divulge details of the staff that will be associated with Mr. Justice Reed. who is a very highly qualified judge, and did important work during the war. The Chief Justice of South Australia has kindly agreed to make his services available for twelve months, and his release has been approved by the Premier of South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that Australia now has accumulated funds abroad amounting to approximately £350,000,000, and that such funds are still increasing, has the Government any policy to deal with that position? Has the Government considered a large-scale repatriation of Australia’s London debt or, alternatively, the investment of Au9tralian balances in British government stock to offset our London debt? Has the Government considered purchasing Australian bonds that are offered on the London stock exchange? Has it considered the effect of bringing the Australian fi to parity with sterling as a means of reducing the cost of living in Australia?
– Generally, the honorable member has asked whether the Government has some plan to deal with balances which have accumulated in London. I remind the honorable gentleman that those funds are the property, not of the Australian Government, but of the Commonwealth Bank. If any portion of such funds is used for any particular purpose by the Government, the
Commonwealth Bank would have to l>e compensated by an equivalent amount, as was done in connexion with payments made by the Commonwealth Bank to the British Government and in the case of funds provided by the Government for relief and other assistance. The Government has complete plans in relation to the utilization of London funds. A fairly considerable portion of those funds has been held, and is still being held, under a gentleman’s agreement with the British Government, on the understanding that they will not be used except in an emergency. The Government believes in maintaining fairly large balances overseas in order to meet the position that would arise should there be a substantial reduction of our overseas income. At present Australia imports goods valued at more than £400,000,000 per annum. That figure may be increased next year. A large quantity of those imports is represented by capital equipment which is absolutely necessary for the development of this country. The Government has not given consideration to a large-scale repatriation, of London funds. At appropriate periods, as certain loans become due for conversion, the Government proposes to repatriate them or some portions of them, as it has done in the past. However, no fixed rule has been adopted with respect to any particular loan.
– Does the Government propose to buy Australian bonds that are offered on the London market?
– No good purpose would be served by doing so, for, with, the exception of a group of 2i per cent, short-term bonds, Australian bonds in London are at present at a premium of from 1 per cent, to 11 per cent. It is not profitable to buy bonds which are selling at a premium. In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, consideration was given some time ago to the appreciation of the Australian £1. The position is being periodically reviewed. I have made the position clear in reply to questions that the Leader of the Australian Country party and the honorable member for Indi have asked on previous occasions. “We cannot tell whether the currencies of various nations will remain stable, because great changes are always liable to occur, but the view of the Government is that while British sterling bears the same relation to other currencies as it does today, the value of the Australian £1 should not be altered.
– Will the Treas urer inform me whether the Government is contemplating the curtailment of advertising expenditure by any individual firm to 2 per cent. of its prices turnover? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the reason for that reported action ? Does he intend to seek the assistance of the State price-fixing authorities to give effect to the proposal?
– The Government has not considered curtailing private advertising. Perhaps the State price-fixing authorities have been examining the position in the light of the charges that newspaper companies make for their publications and the advertising rates that they charge, but I have no information about the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to explain in what circumstances letters posted for transmission by air mail are, in fact, forwarded by surface mail? What quantity of mail is so transported annually? As penalties are imposed when postage is short paid, will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General whether a person may claim a credit or a refund from the department when letters bearing airmail postage are sent by ordinary mail?
– I shall confer with the Postmaster-General about the question that the honorable member has asked. I hope to be able to obtain a full reply for him early next week.
Mr. S. M. FALSTEIN, M.P.
– I desire to direct a question to the Prime Minister, and for purposes of clarification, I shall quote two verses from the Old Testament.
– Order ! The honorable member should ask his question without quoting from the Scriptures.
– The quotations are material to my question.
– Questions must relate to public administration and I do not think that the Prime Minister can be held responsible for the administration of the Bible.
– The right honorable gentleman is certainly not responsible for the Scriptures, but he is responsible for the administration of Commonwealth matters.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I have yet to ask my question.
– Order! The honorable member must ask his question or resume his seat. I shall not allow him to quote a passage from the Scriptures.
– I shall give those quotations outside the chamber. I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to carry upon his devoted shoulders all the sins of the Government, and cast forth into the wilderness as a scapegoat a gentleman who is a confirmed socialist, an exponent of private enterprise, and a devotee of international trade and who has sat in this House for the last nine years? I refer to the honorable member for Watson, whose case is dealt with in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 16, verses 9 and 10.
– I shall examine the suggestion that has been made by the honorable gentleman and look up the quotation to which he has referred. If he puts his question on the notice-paper I shall endeavour to answer it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to an article that appeared in the Sydney Sun on the 27th February? The article was headed “Iron Risk”, and contained the statement that the Australian people needed the assurance of the Australian Government that iron ore deposits at
Yampi Sound would not be banded over to J apan through Brasserts and Company of London. Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain from the Western Australian Government the exact position regarding these deposits and make a statement to the House in order to reassure the people of the eastern States that these iron ore deposits will not be handed over to Japan?
– I have not read the article to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I have been informed that a Mr. Webster has made a statement regarding the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound. I mentioned the matter yesterday to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He and I have been particularly interested in this matter, as has been the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. who attended the conference of the International Trade Organization in Geneva. The committee, of which the three of us were members, gave some thought to means of ensuring that the provisions of the Charter of the International Trade Organization would not debar this country from preventing the sale of, for instance, iron ore from Yampi Sound. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture controls exports from Australia. I give the honorable member for Swan a definite assurance that no iron ore from Yampi Sound will be exported.
– Has the Prime Minister considered the request that was made to him by the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that the State parliaments of Australia be permitted to legislate in respect of preference to ex-servicemen by agreement with the Australian Government? If so, has the right honorable gentleman arrived at any decision regarding the request?
– The federal president and federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia waited upon two other Ministers and myself to discuss matters affecting returned servicemen. One of the requests that was made was that the Commonwealth Reestablishment and Employment Act should be amended. It has been decided by the courts that a Commonwealth act overrides any State legislation dealing with the same matters. It was suggested that the Australian Government, by amending the Commonwealth act, should enable the State parliaments to pass their own legislation affecting returned servicemen. Mr. Millhouse put his case very ably and courteously, but, knowing the view of the Government, I told him that we had no intention of amending the Commonwealth Re-establishment and Employment Act for that purpose.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether there has been a substantial increase of the cost of living since the Australian Government relinquished control of prices? If this be so, will the right honorable gentleman make available to the House figures showing the percentage increase that has occurred so that the Australian people may be made aware of the ineffectiveness of State governments to administer this important control or their inability to do so?
– There has been a considerable increase in the cost of living since the Commonwealth relinquished prices control-
– The Australian Government could have prevented that.
– The honorable member for Martin has asked, as I understand it, whether there has been an increase in the cost of living since the States took over prices control and my answer to that is “ Yes “. I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether the Commonwealth Statistician could, without undue research being involved, make some statistics available to the honorable member, and for that matter to other honorable members, regarding increases in prices that affect, the cost of living.
– I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question arising from a letter that I have received from the Uki branch of the
Primary Producers Union. Uki is a district on the Tweed River in which there are .many dairy farms. The letter requests me to ask the Minister whether he will consider a review of dairy produce prices with a view to striking new prices that will be based on a 40-hour week rather than on a 56-hour week, upon which the price of butter is at present based.
– The Government does not intend to depart from the findings of the committee that inquired into costs of production in the dairying industry. The basis of the findings was approved by members of the committee, including the representatives of the dairying industry. In those circumstances any review of the figures would be based on that finding.
Recruiting - Establishment Strength - Status of Personnel - Pay and Ranks - “ Sydney Morning Herald “ Article - Radar
– In view of the strengthening of air forces now being undertaken by the United Kingdom and the United States of America because of the present world position, will the Minister for Air, at an early date, make a statement upon the following matters : - Cs Royal Australian Air Force recruiting, including that being carried out in the United Kingdom on Australia’s behalf, satisfactory? How many squadrons have been brought up to full strength, both in Australia and in Japan? What is the enlisted strength and the establishment of the regular Air Force? What is the enlisted strength of the Citizen Air Force? No doubt any nation hostile to Australia will already have obtained the information for which I am now asking; therefore, our own people should have it.
– Obviously I cannot supply such details at a moment’s notice. In any event, I do not propose to give to the House details which would expose to potential enemies figures relating to the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force. If the honorable member for Balaclava had his way he would be quite willing to give to our enemies figures relating to our air strength and details of defects that he has suggested exist in the Air Force.
– That is a despicable thing to say.
– I do not claim that the Royal Australian Air Force is perfect. There was a vast improvement in recruiting towards the end of last year. A large number of applicants, who applied for enlistment overseas, have bean interviewed and a number of them have already been enlisted. As far as I am concerned, satisfactory progress is being made. The statement made by the Minister for Defence on this matter covers the Government’s plans regarding the Air Force. The Government is doing the utmost it can with the means available.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Air a question about a matter that I have already brought to his notice in another way. It concerns various officers who had the rank of warrant officer in the permanent Royal Australian Air Force but had Citizen Air Force commissions, some of senior status. If the Minister aware that from this position certain difficulties arise regarding the pensions and retiring ranks of thos* officers? I ask the Minister whether, in addition to granting such mem ben long service leave at commissioned rank rates, he will allow them to retire from the service with their commissioned ranks instead of their ranks in the permanent Air Force? Secondly, in view of the difficulties that have arisen with those two types of commission, will he, in consultation with the other service Ministers, consider drawing up regulations designed to obviate such difficulties in the future?
– The honorable mem’ber’s question has reference, I think, to a matter that he raised in a recent letter to -me. That matter is before the department now.
– The Minister has granted the rates; it is now a matter of retirement.
– I promise to have the matters additional to those raised in the letter examined to see whether something can be done, or is desirable or necessary, to carry out the principles that he desires to have laid down in respect of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force.
– I ask the Minister for Air the following questions: - 1. Is it correct, as alleged in the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday, that “ only one in every fifty R.A.A.F. planes to-day was suitable for battle”? 2. Is it correct, as suggested in the same report, that as Minister for Air the honorable gentleman caused his private secretary to ring the Air Force station at Canberra and that his secretary “wanted to know what was going on over there”? 3. Is it true, as suggested in the leading column of the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, that the planes used in the exercise referred to in the article were “ mostly pre-war types “ f 4. If these statements are not correct, will the Minister give the House the facts ?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honorable member is “ No “. The published statement is so incorrect as to savour of deliberate misrepresentation by the Sydney Morning Herald writer. The Chief of the Air Staff has assured me that he made no such statement but that the statement he did make was to the effect that the probability of war was such that, in his opinion, it was unlikely that one in fifty aircraft of current types would be employed in the next war and that, if and when war did eventuate, the Royal Australian Air Force would be re-equipped with later and more modern machines, including jet-propelled types. In other words, the Chief of the Air Staff expressed his view that the Royal Australian Air Force would be equipped with aircraft of new types before the next war occurred, when he considered it unlikely that one in fifty aircraft of the present types would be in use. The statement of the Chief of the Air Staff has obviously been twisted in order to provide a basis for the criticism which has followed. As for the telephone call to the Air Force Station at Canberra, a call was made by my private secretary at my request about 2.30 p.m. to ascertain what numbers of planes of the respective types were employed in the exercise, and whether the exercise had been completed.
The officer who was in charge of the control tower when the ring came through has informed me that the remark attributed to him in the report, “ What do you think of that ? “ was never made. This indicates clearly that the pressman concerned took advantage of the courtesy extended to him of being allowed in the control tower and furnished a report which was completely incorrect in order to suit the policy of the paper. The reference to the planes in the exercise being “ mostly pre-war types “ illustrates the ignorance of the writer, or his wilful desire to misrepresent, as 33 of the aircraft used were developed during the war. and 30 of them were the latest available at the conclusion of hostilities, whilst two are post-war planes.
– The whole two of them!
– I am answering the allegation that the aeroplanes which took part in the exercise were pre-war types. That is a lie, and I am nailing that lie now. The Dakotas and Catalina? are still being used by air force authorities in most parts of the world, and are rendering service of great value day after day in the Berlin airlift. If war broke out in the near future, every one of the aircraft used in the display would be suitable for battle, and capable of rendering splendid service. Preparations have been made for the Air Force to be equipped with aircraft suitable to meet possible and probable future requirements. It will be seen that the criticisms have no factual foundation, and that misrepresentation has been recklessly resorted to for political purposes.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether it is a fact that there are no radar screens in Australia to assist co-operation between Royal Australian Air Force fighters and bombers, and whether there are no air strips in New Guinea in a sufficiently good state of repair to permit of Royal Australian Air Force operations being conducted in that area?
– There is adequate co-operation at the present time between bomber and fighter aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force. Tests are constantly being made in the taking off and landing of aircraft at suitable places.
Frequent charges have been made that the Air Force is so ill equipped that it cannot put aircraft into the air. Some of those allegations have already been completely answered. Co-operation between fighter and bomber squadrons is being maintained. As far as I am aware, strips are available in New Guinea which would enable aircraft to land at any time. If there is any further information that the honorable member would like to have on the subject, provided that it would not be of use to an enemy, I -mall be glad to supply it.
– la the Prime Minister aware that the Liberal Government of Victoria has recently granted to gas companies permission to make a substantial increase in the price of gas? Is he also aware that one of the companies to which the permission was granted earned a profit of more than £90,000 last year? Will the Prime Minister make inquiries about whether or not the consumers are to take the Victorian Government’s action as an indication that increases of prices will be granted as soon as pressure is applied by the large financial institutions?
– What about the recommendation to the Labour Government in New South Wales for an increase in the price of gas ?
– Or is it a case of the Victorian Government taking the easy way out in order to prevent trouble in its own ranks?
– What the honorable member has said may be perfectly true; but, as J have previously pointed out, these matters come within the province of the State governments. The Premier of Victoria in particular, and the Premiers of Western Australia and, probably, South Australia intimated to the people that they could do the job of controlling prices much better than the Commonwealth could do it. The people believed them. Therefore, the responsibility rests upon those who gave that undertaking to keep it. All I can say i? that generally the profits on invested funds of companies throughout Australia is much better than it was before or early in th« war.
– I ask the Prime
Minister to outline the duties of counsel appointed by the Crown to assist royal commissioners. Are such counsel required to cross-examine witnesses called by the Crown?
– It has always been the practice of governments in appointing royal commissions to appoint learned counsel to assist them. That has been done in connexion with the present royal commission. The royal commissioner is a judge of high repute. I have no other comment to make than that I am satisfied that he is able to carry out his work ably and in a trustworthy manner.
Re-broadcast of Questions - Formal Motions for Adjournment.
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in your capacity as acting chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. Will you ask the committee to consider varying the present procedure in connexion with the omission of defamatory matter and personal explanations from the evening rebroadcasts of questions and answers? As an illustration, I mention that an untrue statement was made about my building luxury flats, which I immediately denied. The accusation was re-broadcast, but the denial was not. In the interests of equity and fair play, 1 suggest that all accusations and denialshould be eliminated from future re-broadcasts.
– If honorable members will make accusations against one another when asking questions, the Chair cannot do much about it. The act which authorizes the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament provides that questions and answers at the beginning: of each sitting shall be re-broadcast in the evening, and it is provided that only questions and answers shall be re-broadcast. Extraneous matter-
– I point out with respect. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the act contains no such provision.
-Order! I understand that the act provides for the re-broadcasting of questions and answers, and that other matters, such as personal explanations and discussions on points of order, are eliminated. I shall have the matter inquired into by the committee.
– May I speak to the point which you have discussed, Mr. Deputy Speaker ?
– Your statement is quite incorrect.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that reflection on the Chair.
– I say that the statement made by you is incorrect.
– I do not want to have to deal with the honorable member for saying that I have deliberately made an incorrect statement. I was told, as a member of the committee, that matter other than questions and answers, was eliminated because the act provided only for the re-broadcasting of questions and answers. At first, other matter was re-broadcast, but later members of the committee decided that only questions and answers were to be re-broadcast. I think that is a correct statement of the position.
– Following a point of order raised yesterday, I undertook to clarify the position regarding urgency motions for adjournment of the House. When I pointed out that it was not in accordance with the practice of this House for motions for the adjournment under Standing Order 38 to be moved without some formal notice, I was correctly stating our usual practice, without overlooking the terms of the standing order which states that such a motion can be moved before the business of the day is called on, and makes no mention of the necessity for notice. Usually, formal notice is given as a matter of courtesy to Mr. Speaker, who has the sole responsibility for deciding whether the motion is in accordance with the Standing Orders and parliamentary practice, and to the Minister concerned, to whom some notice is due in order to enable him to obtain departmental files, but there have been rare occasions when, of necessity, in a matter suddenly arising, no notice has been given. I remember only one such case since 1 have been a member of this House. In all other cases, some formal notice has been given of the honorable member’s intention.
In the British House of Commons the intention of the mover is notified before the business of the day is called on. The business of the day is then called on and proceeded with. If Mr. Speaker satisfies himself that the motion is in order, it is given precedence over other business later in the day at 7.30 p.m. The House of Commons, therefore, has ample notice before the debate takes place. In this House, the motion is proceeded with immediately. Because of this practice, it is recognized that some formal notice is necessary. I do not think that it was ever intended that the Standing Orders should permit an important debate to take place without notice. Under a strict interpretation of the Standing Orders, however, an honorable member who insists on his right to move without notice, may do so, provided he is supported by at least five honorable members, and provided also that Mr. Speaker is satisfied, not only that the motion is in conformity with the general rules applicable to all motions, but also that the matter is definite, urgent, of public importance and of recent occurrence.
Incident at Karachi - Ant Accident n, New Guinea.
– I desire to task a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. It relates to an incident which occurred some months ago when a Constellation aircraft bound for Australia, was held up for a week at Karachi because of a defective engine. British Overseas Airways Corporation officials arranged that some of the passengers should come on to Australia by the following plane. The passengers themselves were to decide who should come. This, however, was prevented by the Australian representative at Karachi, who ordered that certain Government officials should he taken on, the reason given being that, because it was a government-owned airline, government officials should have priority. On three different occasions I have asked the Minister for an answer to my question. Each time he promised that he would reply later, but he has not done so. Does he intend to reply, and if not, why not?
– The honorable member has raised this matter twice before. In reply, I stated what I thought had taken place, and I understand that m letter has been written to him giving full details of the occurrence. If he has not received the letter, I shall make inquiries into the reason. The allegations contained in the honorable member’s question are of a kind frequently made by him. It will be found upon examination, I think, that there may be some reason for believing that a mistaken policy was applied in this instance. It was never intended that government officials should enjoy priority over other air travellers, but the Government cannot be held responsible for a misinterpretation of its policy by some people. The policy of the Government is to give fair treatment to all passengers. Delays take place, not only of the planes operated by Qantas and Boac, but also of planes operated by other airlines. When such delays occur, it is our policy to give preference to those whose business is most urgent.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say when the report of the inquiry into the Lae air crash, which has been in the hands of the Government for some time, will be tabled in this House?
– I indicated yesterday that, I had a statement to make on the subject,’and would later ask for leave to make it. Unfortunately, the opportunity was missed at the close of question time yesterday. A question on the subject was asked by the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Moreton was not in the House at the time. The honorable member’s impatience is likely to be allayed at the conclusion of question time to-day.
– by leave - I am now in a position to make a statement regarding the accident to the Lockheed Hudson aircraft VH-ALA which occurred at Lae, New Guinea, on the 18th April, 1948. Several honorable members have evinced interest in this accident and during the sittings of the Parliament in the last sessional period I undertook to make a statement on the matter as soon as T was in a position to do so. An investigation of this accident was carried out by a panel of departmental officers authorized by the Director-General of Civil Aviation in accordance with regulation 278 of the Air Navigation Regulations. The panel comprised the Chief Inspector of Accident Investigations, Wing Commander J. H. Harper; the District Superintendent, New Guinea, Mr. J. S. Arthur ; and Aircraft Surveyor, New Guinea, Mr. A. R. Murray. It will be recalled that shortly after take-off from Lae airport the aircraft stalled and spun into the ground 2 miles from the airstrip, killing all the occupants. The aircraft was completely destroyed by impact and lire. The findings of the investigation panel can be summarized as follows: -
The aircraft was owned by a Mr. Van Praag, of Sydney, and was operated by Guinea Air Traders Limited under a contract of hire. It crashed out of control on an island in the Markham River near Lae airstrip at approximately 0921 hours on the 18th April, 1948, killing all the occupants, consisting of four Europeans and 33 natives. The aircraft had an interim certificate of airworthiness and the investigation panel could find no evidence to suggest that the aircraft had not been properly inspected for airworthiness on the morning of the flight. There is evidence to suggest that a certificate of safety had been issued, but that it was subsequently destroyed in the accident.
The cause of the accident was loss of control of the aircraft following failure of the port engine shortly after take-off. The loss of power was due to the failure of the accessory drive gear on the port engine, and an examination by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has established that this resulted from a fatigue failure, the origin of which cannot be definitely established. The panel also considered that the loss of control was probably due to poor technique on the part of the pilot following the engine failure and that - (a) the inadequate training of the pilot on this type of aircraft; and (b) the incorrect disposal of the loading, were probably contributory causes. As regards the former, it appears that the pilot had not in fact been submitted to the tests in assymetric flight and stalling that are laid down in the Air Navigation Orders. As regards the latter, it has been calculated by the investigation panel that the disposal of the load in the aircraft would result in its centre of gravity being outside the limits authorized by the certificate of airworthiness and that this would affect adversely its stability. Although the loaded weight of the aircraft was within the all-up weight authorized by the certificate of airworthiness, it carried, including the crew, 37 persons, whereas the certificate of airworthiness limited the number to be carried to two. The limitation to two persons was based on the seating accommodation provided in the aircraft. The investigation panel expressed the opinion that had seats and safety belts been provided for all persons carried, without changing the position of the occupants, it is unlikely that the circumstances of this accident would have been materially affected.
The investigation panel considered that its investigations disclosed certain breaches of the Air Navigation Regulations by Guinea Air Traders Limited and recommended that prosecutions should be launched accordingly.
That summarizes the findings of the investigation panel. The departmental papers, including all the evidence available to support the recommended prosecutions, were referred to the Crown Solicitor for advice whether there was sufficient evidence to justify prosecution. In due course, the Crown Solicitor advised that there was a prima facie case of contravention of the regulations. He indicated, however, that there might be certain legal difficulties of a technical nature. It was at this stage that I informed the House on the 14th October, 1948, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Moreton (Mi. Francis) that I had authorized the prosecution of Guinea Air Traders Limited. The subject of these prosecutions has since been under consideration by the Attorney-General’s Department and it was because a prosecution wa* pending against Guinea Air Traders Limited that I have refrained until now from releasing the findings of the accident investigation panel. However, when the cases came to be prepared, the Crown Solicitor found that action could not be taken along the lines recommended, either because of lack of admissible evidence or because of legal flaws in the provisions themselves which had not previously come under notice. Immediate steps are being taken to rectify these defects. In the circumstances, however, it has not been found possible to institute proceedings against Guinea Air Traders Limited. Having now informed the House of the findings of the investigation panel, and having indicated that no legal action can be taken against those responsible for the operation of the aircraft at the time, I can now add that I am satisfied that the report of the investigation panel adequately covers the matter and that no useful purpose would be served by referring the accident to an air court of inquiry. Needless to say, my department has already taken action to ensure that the requirements in regard to the training of pilots and the loading of aircraft are observed in New Guinea as they are on the mainland. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Aircraft Accident, Lae, New Guinea - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Falkinder) adjourned.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that large sums of money are being made available for the importation of fumigants and ammunition, particularly cyanogas and .22 calibre ammunition, and because of very great need for their immediate use, 7 ask the Minister whether he is able- to give the House any information relarive to the date upon which these requirements will arrive in Australia? Is it likely to be in the near future, or will importations extend over a long period?
– The dates of delivery of cyanogas and other requirements for dealing with the rabbit plague are dependent on the firms which order those products from the United States of America. If the importing firms do not avail themselves of their licence rights and place their orders promptly, there will undoubtedly be delays in deliveries. If the orders are placed promptly the goods will arrive in Australia as soon as they can be loaded on ships and transported to Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister supply to honorable members a table showing the rise in the cost-of-living index figure from the September quarter of 1939 up to the present time?
– I shall discuss the natter with the Commonwealth Statistician and ascertain from him what information can be supplied along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement by General MacArthur that American Pacific defences will henceforth be based on a deep line extending from the Philippines to Okinawa, Japan and the Aleutian Islands to Alaska? Has the Australian Government been informed officially of these new strategic proposals, and is Australia playing any co-operative part in either maintaining or, in an emergency, helping to supply this Pacific defence screen ?
– I have not seen the statement purported to have been made by General MacArthur, to which the honorable member has referred. Indeed, I view reports of statements of that character with very grave suspicion, because they are not always correct. I have discussed with General MacArthur some aspects of defence policy in the Pacific, including the proposal referred to by the honorable member. Discussions are continually taking place on a service level relative to the best form of defence of Australia, having regard, of course, to the interests of the United Kingdom, and of other nations in the Pacific. In one form or another, discussions of that kind are going on continually.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1948.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I have a right to know.
– Order! There may be no debate at this stage.
– If the motion is agreed to, we shall not have an opportunity later to move amendments possibly for extending the scope of the bill.
– Order ! The House has already granted the Minister leave to bring in the bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. There can be no debate on the motion for the first reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
-Order! The Minister will explain the purposes of the bill in his second-reading speech. There being no objection, leave is granted, and the Minister may proceed.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I inform honorable members and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), in particular that the bill has two main purposes: The first is to provide for the enfranchisement of certain aborigines, and the second is to improve the postal voting provisions of the Commonwealth law. For many years, representations have been made by responsible bodies urging the extension of the franchise to those aboriginal natives of Australia who, through association and education, have sufficiently developed the attributes of civilization as to be deemed capable of exercising the right to vote. As the Government is entirely in sympathy with these views, it has provided in this bill that an aboriginal native of Australia shall be entitled to enrolment on the Commonwealth electoral roll and to vote at elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives if - (a) he is entitled under the law of the State in which he resides to be enrolled as an elector of that State and to vote at elections for the more numerous Houses of the Parliament of the States; or (b) he is a member of the defence force or has been such a member. Tn New South “Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, aboriginal natives of Australia are entitled, under State law, to enrolment on the State roll and to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the parliament of the State. Therefore, if the proposal embodied in this bill is agreed to, aboriginal natives resident in the said States will also be entitled to enrolment for Commonwealth purposes and to vote at Commonwealth elections. As a joint Commonwealth and .State roll is in operation in these four States - that is in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania - the proposed provision, conceding Commonwealth franchise to the natives concerned, will have the added advantage of making for uniformity and the avoidance of confusion. In Western Australia, aboriginal natives are, in the main, disqualified from enrolment and from voting at State elections, but the Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act of that State permits any adult native to make application for a certificate of citizenship to a resident or stipendiary magistrate, and if the magistrate is satisfied as to the suitability of the applicant, a certificate of citizenship is issued, whereupon, for State purposes, the holder is deemed to be no longer an aboriginal but to have all the rights, privileges and immunities and to be subject to the duties and liabilities of any other British subject, including, amongst other things, entitlement to enrolment and to vote. It follows that, if the relative provision contained in this bill is agreed to, any aboriginal native resident in Western Australia who has secured or does secure a certificate of citizenship under the State Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act will be entitled to Commonwealth enrolment and to vote at Commonwealth elections, in addition to those natives who are serving, or have served in the defence force. In Queensland aboriginal natives are at present disqualified from enrolment on the State roll and from voting at State elections. Consequently, so far as native.5resident in Queensland are concerned, only those who are members of the defence forces or who have been such members would, as the result of the passage of this bill, immediately acquire the right to enrol on the Commonwealth roll and to vote at Commonwealth elections. However, the Premier of Queensland has announced that it is the intention of the Queensland Government to bring down this year a bill to provide for the enfranchisement of natives who are deemed qualified therefor and, assuming that that bill is passed, those natives will automatically become qualified to enrol and to vote for Commonwealth purposes. Subject to the provision in this bill being adopted, it is proposed to provide in the relative regulations that aboriginal natives resident in the Australian Capital Territory shall, as in the surrounding State of New South Wales, bc entitled to enrol for and to vote at elections within that territory, and that iti the Northern Territory, apart from members and ex-members of the forces, only those aboriginal natives who, under an appropriate ordinance, are declared to he fit to assume and to perform the f unctions of citizenship shall be entitled to enrol and to vote.
The provisions of the bill relating to postal voting have been designed to relieve electors of many of the disabilities which are now associated with this means of voting and also to provide such additional safeguards as are practicable against irregularities in connexion with it. It is provided in the bill that any elector whose name appears upon a roll shall be competent to witness the recording of a postal vote, and, when the vote is recorded outside Australia, that any naval, military, or air force officer or any person employed in the public service of the Commonwealth or of a territory of the Commonwealth shall suffice. At the present time any elector can witness an application for a postal vote, but the actual recording of the vote has to be witnessed by one of the authorized witnesses specified in the restricted list that is prescribed. This has imposed a hardship upon postal voters, especially those who live in outlying areas or who are ill or aged and infirm. Many of these people have experienced extreme difficulty in securing a qualified witness. At every election considerable numbers of postal votes have been rejected from admission to the scrutiny because the votes have not been, or do not appear to have been, witnessed by an authorized witness. In some instances the envelope containing the vote has been returned either unwitnessed or witnessed by an unqualified person with an endorsement to the effect that no authorized witness was available. In other instances, the vote has been disallowed because the witness has failed to insert the title under which he has acted as an authorized witness, and frequently, because of delay caused by the difficulty of arranging for the vote to be recorded before an authorized witness, it has been returned too late for acceptance. It is believed that the requirement that a postal vote must be recorded before an authorized witness on the prescribed list has contributed largely to the objectionable features and grave doubts which at time have been associated with this means of” voting. To a considerable degree it has resulted in postal voters developing an undesirable dependence on authorized witnesses who are active agents of one or other of the political parties. By permitting any elector to witness a postal vote this dependence on political agents will be greatly lessened and the scope for possible malpractice considerably reduced. For this reason, it is considered that the granting of such permission will strengthen, rather than impair, the safeguards of the system.
In order to assist electors from the States who are temporarily in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory, the bill provides that such electors may make their applications to. and obtain the required postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers from, the returning officer at Canberra or Darwin, as the case may be. It is not intended to vary the existing provision that a returning officer shall not post a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper to an applicant unless his or her application has been received before 6 p.m. on the day preceding the polling day, but the bill contains a clause which . provides that postal vote certificates and postal ballotpapers may be obtainable by electors who are entitled to vote by post if they make personal application at the office of a returning officer up to the hour of the close of the poll. No useful purpose would be served by posting a certificate and ballot-paper to an applicant in response to an application that was received on the day of polling, because it would be virtually impossible for the applicant to receive the documents in time to enable him to record his vote before the close of the poll, but the proposal to extend the postal voting facilities to applicants who apply in person at a divisional returning officer’s office or at the office of the returning officer for the Australian Capital Territory or for the Northern Territory on polling day is regarded as both reasonable and desirable, because it will give to the majority of the electors who are outside their home States at a Commonwealth election time and attend at a polling booth under the impression they can record their votes there, a last minute opportunity to exercise the franchise.
Section 96 of the Electoral Act at present provides that a divisional returning officer shall accept a postal vote for scrutiny if he is satisfied, among other things, that the envelope containing the vote was posted prior to the close of the poll. The bill proposes that this requirement shall be amended to provide that the divisional returning officer shall accept the vote for scrutiny if he is satisfied, inter alia, that the vote contained in the envelope was recorded prior to the close of the poll. Many thousands of postal votes are usually obtained immediately prior to polling day, and in the great majority of these instances the vote is duly recorded and the envelope containing the ballot-paper posted before the hour of the close of the poll. However, as postal services are now, to a degree, suspended over Saturday and Sunday, a very substantial proportion of such votes is not collected from the posting boxes or postmarked until the morning of the Monday after the poll. In such circumstances the divisional returning officer is unable to satisfy himself that the envelope was posted prior to the close of the poll and is compelled to reject the vote. If the provisions of the law are amended as proposed by this measure, returning officers will, with reason, be able to accept all postal votes which bear in the certificate of the witness carrying a date not later than that of the polling day.
At an earlier stage of my remarks I indicated that the bill provides for additional safeguards against irregularities in connexion with postal voting. First, it is proposed that applications for postal votes received by a divisional returning officer shall not be open for public inspection until the third day after the polling day. This will prevent political agents from indulging in the undesirable practice of checking up on the applications from day to day and organizing followup action that, in the past, frequently has resulted in annoyance or embarrassment to the voter. Secondly, whereas section 92 of the Electoral Act now provides that a postal voter shall, upon marking his vote, fold the ballot-paper and hand it to the witness to place in the postal vote certificate envelope, the bill proposes that the section be amended te provide that after marking his vote and folding the ballot-paper the voter himself shall place the folded ballot-paper in the postal vote certificate envelope and fasten the envelope. It is considered that the proposed procedure is the more desirable, and is more likely to secure the preservation of the secrecy of the ballot. Thirdly, it is proposed, so as to ensure a wider coverage, that in lieu of the existing sub-section which provides that a witness shall not persuade or induce a person to apply for a postal vote, a new section be inserted to provide that, under nain of penalty, a person shall not persuade or induce or associate himself with a person in persuading or inducing an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper. Lastly, the bill includes a new section which provides that it shall be an offence for a person to persuade or induce an elector to hand over to him s postal ballot-paper upon which a vote has been recorded. The object of thi* proposed addition to the law is to avoid, as far as practicable, the danger of postal votes - particularly those recorded by hospital patients or institution inmate? - being picked up by unscrupulous persons and tampered with.
In addition to the provisions mentioned, the bill contains three clauses that are mainly consequential on the recently passed nationality legislation. So that the expression used in the electoral law to denote British nationality shall conform to that contained in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 194S, the bill provides that the words “ British subject “ shall be substituted for the words “ subject of the King “ in sections 39, 69 and 115 of the Electoral Act, and that the now redundant qualifying words “ natural-born or naturalized “ shall be dropped. It is also provided that the restrictive condition hitherto contained in section 69 regarding naturalized persons shall be omitted. In the view of the Government that restrictive condition does not accord with the modern concept of the democratic principle and for that reason it should be discontinued.
The bill contains two further clauses of an entirely machinery nature - one provides for a textual alteration of section 43 of the principal act to permit effective action in respect of transfers of enrolment between subdivisions of States and districts of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, whilst the other, by varying the wording of section 142, is designed to remove interpretative uncertainty and to bring the terms of the section into conformity with those of section 141.
I commend the bill to the Souse believing that its provisions generally will appeal to honorable members opposite as well as to those on this side of the chamber.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory Representation Act 1922-1936.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is of a formal nature only. It is entirely consequential on the passing of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 and that clause in the Electoral Bill 1949 that is now before the House, which is designed to remove the restrictive condition hitherto contained in the Commonwealth electoral law in respect of the eligibility of naturalized persons for nomination and election to this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a similar bill to that presented for the amendment of the Northern Territory Representation Act. It is purely a formal measure consequential on the Nationality and Citizenship Act and the provision in the electoral bill now before the House, relating to the removal of the restrictive condition hitherto embodied in the law regarding the qualifications of naturalized persons for nomination and election to Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 2nd March (vide page 920).
Clause 28 (Official minutes of meetings).
– Last night, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in speaking on this clause, expressed concern in connexion with the methods that may be adopted of taking the minutes of meetings of advisory councils. I can assure the honorable gentleman that it will not be the duty of the Minister to translate minutes that have been taken in various dialects of the natives.
– The clause states that a copy of the minutes must be forwarded to the Minister.
– That is so, but I have investigated the matter and I have found that native advisory councils will be established only in places where the administrator considers that they could function properly. They will be composed of selected representatives from village councils and of district officials representing the various departments of the Administration. I was astonished, during my recent visit to Papua, where I met a number of native councillors, to discover that many of them spoke perfect English. I made inquiries and found that they had received their education at mission schools, of which there are many in both Papua and New Guinea. Undoubtedly, the missions of Papua and Sew Guinea have done a remarkable job in these territories. I returned from my visit to that area determined that I would co-operate to the very fullest extent with all the missions operating throughout both territories. Therefore, I think we can relieve the minds of honorable members who are perturbed as to how the reports will come to the Minister. In New Guinea, the Education Department is doing a good job. Once a fortnight it publishes the Rabaul News. On one side of the sheet news items are printed in English and on the other side they appear in pidgin-English. The natives are keen to get it.
– I thought the Minister for External Territories had prohibited pidgin-English.
– No; he has not done that. I do not know where these reports come from.
– Will the Minister let me have a look at the Rabaul News?
– Yes. At no time when I was in New Guinea did I hear that the Minister for External Territories had prohibited the use of pidgin- English. The Education Department, of course, is anxious to teach the natives to speak English as soon as possible.
– They do not use pidgin- English in Papua.
– No, not now. At Sogeri native teachers are being trained. The training school has sent out 40 native teachers in the last twelve months. The school is doing a splendid job. To show that in preparing letters or notices the natives use verbiage that translates into very fair English, I direct the attention of honorable gentlemen to the following English translation of a letter in pidgin- English, which I do not intend to read because I do not know how to : - to all luluais, Tultuls add government Natives.
Two years ago, the Japs attacked us without warning. We had no thought of fighting them, and we were not prepared. Very quickly the Japs took New Guinea, but we stopped thora in Papua. The Americans came in on our side, and we have re-taken Aitape, Madang, Salamaua, Lae, Finchafen. We have won back
Talasea, Gasmata, Manus and New Hanover. In the east we have cleared the Jap out of Nissam Island, out of Puruata and the Solomons.
Some (Japs) remain at Wewak, Rabaul and Buka. But these are like fishes in a net. They cannot get fresh supplies or food and cannot escape. The Japs have no ships, no aeroplanes and are finished.
That shows that the natives can make sentences that are a credit to them. I feel that I have convinced the honorable member for Wentworth that the Minister responsible for the administration of external territories will have furnished to him reports translated into good English.
– The questions asked last night by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) about the provisions of this clause prompt me to supplement what the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Chambers) has said. I shall speak from my own experiences in New Guinea last year when I had the privilege of meeting quite a lot of natives and of attending the reconstruction training school, which is under the direction of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). .The clause reads - ( 1. ) Minutes of each meeting of an Advisory Council shall be kept and copies thereof shall be forwarded to the Administrator. (2.) Copies of the minutes shall be transmitted to the Minister by the Administrator as soon as practicable after each meeting.
The point to be made is that what is planned now for the Territories of New Guinea and Papua is not for to-day or to-morrow but is a long-range plan for the administration of their own affairs by the natives themselves. Apropos of what the Minister has said about meeting the chiefs, I had the great privilege of meeting a large congregation of the leading tribal chiefs of New Guinea at a ceremony at which, on behalf of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, I presented certificates to twelve native students who had passed through the training school and were about to return to their villages having learnt a good deal of English and having been trained in certain branches of medical service. The chiefs were assembled to mark that important occasion. I witnessed what was being done to educate the natives. I conversed with the chiefs. They could speak quite good English.
– Order! I should like the Minister for Repatriation to connect his remarks with the clause.
– Yes. The point that I was leading up to is that the minutes of the meetings hare to be supplied to the Administrator and then to the Minister. The reports will be made by natives who understand English and have been selected because of their ability to keep minutes and transmit them to the Administrator in a form that will be understandable by and acceptable to the Minister. I was making the point that this is not a plan for to-day or tomorrow, but is a long-range plan for the improvement of the status of the natives of New Guinea. When I met the chiefs F learnt at first-hand something of their personalities, their learning and their responsibilities. They are now accepted by, and mingle with, the white people administering the territory. I think the honorable member for Wentworth is quite astray in his criticism. He does not seem to be well informed of what is intended to be done under this clause.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has given me a document that, I believe, was tendered to him by the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Chambers). No doubt, it is a most interesting document. I see one or two words that remind me of the Gaelic Lochaber-na-mAor. A few of the words are apparently of German derivation. If the Government is going in for a system of education and feels that the English language, which is the fifth or sixth of the European languages that have been practically universal languages - the first was Greek, which was succeeded by
Latin, Spanish, French, and later English -is not good enough for this job, perhaps we should resort to Esperanto. T understand that quite a few languages are spoken in New Guinea, ind perhaps we should consult a Philadelphia lawyer, with vine leaves bound around his head, to advise us on the matter. If we are to educate the natives of New Guinea, and teach them English, then for Heaven’s sake let it be real English, and not a hybrid language. I am reminded that some one once said of hybrids or half-castes that they usually have all the bad qualities of both races and the good qualities of neither. That is how I feel about pidgin-English. Can the Minister say whether the records of council meetings are to be kept in English or in pidgin-English? Can he explain what useful purpose will be served by the piling up of such records in Canberra ? Will the Minister read the reports of proceedings of advisory councils and of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council, or will he pigeon-hole them until a sufficient quantity has accumulated to burn on some frosty night in order to raise thitemperature? Many years ago, a book was written by some one - I have forgotten his name - about a person who kept records of all his activities. It is, 1 think, the driest book that I have ever read, but I suggest that the records of proceedings of the New Guinea advisory councils, whether kept in English or in pidgin, will be drier still.
– I cannot speak for other Ministers, but I read all report? dealing with the departments which 1 administer. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me for the document to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has referred. I lent it to the honorable member for Wentworth; I did not lend it to the honorable member for Barker, although I do not mind bis having it.
.- English and Motuan have been the official languages in Papua ever since it became a British possession in the ‘eighties of last century. The Mandated Territory of New Guinea was taken from the Germans, and the use of pidgin-English had been encouraged by the Germans as a kind of lingua franca. Just as Hindustani became the common language throughout the whole of India, so pidgin-English became the language throughout the Pacific. All the traders and the natives use it. I have a copy of the Bible printed in pidgin-English, and many books printed in that language have been issued by the missions. It was the means of communication between the Germans and the Australians, and the Germans and the natives. Its use will probably continue for many years, but English will ultimately supersede it.
I hope that the business of making records and preparing reports will not be overdone. We have in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea excellent public servants in our patrol officers and district officers, and I think the whole matter may be left to their common sense. If the Minister gives an indication that such clerical work must be kept to a minimum, that should be sufficient.
– The Minister seems to be under the impression that I violated some agreement between us when I handed over a paper to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– That is all right. I just mentioned the matter.
– The paper was the Rabaul News, which is printed on one side in English and the other side in pidgin-English. There was nothing confidential about it, and I wonder that the Minister should have referred to the matter. I thought it would be of interest to honorable members generally. If the records of the proceedings of advisory councils are to be kept in pidgin-English, honorable members ought to know what it looks like. The clause now under consideration has not been explained satisfactorily. It is provided that an advisory council must have on it a majority of natives. In practice, a council will prob- ably consist of a patrol officer and two natives. This provision seems to me to be just plain nonsense. It is the result of interference in our affairs by South American republics. If we had not agreed to accept the administration of New Guinea under a trusteeship it would not have been necessary to put such nonsense into our legislation. With our record of colonial administration under such men as Sir Hubert Murray, we do not need to be told how to deal with natives. Presumably, the village councils will prepare reports for submission to the advisory councils, which will consider them and forward the minutes to the Administrator and to the Minister. It is just a mass of nonsense and arrant humbug. If we had insisted upon administering New Guinea on the same basis as the United States of America is administering the Marshall Islands, the Carolines and the Marianas, we should have enjoyed almost complete sovereignty. There would have been no nonsense about the preparation of minutes and reports, and we should not have to accept directions from such nations as Mexico, Iraq and Costa Rica, which are only too anxious to poke a finger into the affairs of a country that has forgotten more about colonial administration than they ever knew. As I have said, this provision is sheer nonsense, and should be deleted.
.- This clause is really very amusing. It provides that minutes must be kept of every advisory council meeting, and that the council shall consist largely of native.If we have a little imagination, we can picture the grave leaders of the tribes coming to sit in solemn conclave with His Excellency the Administrator, and pouring forth words of wisdom which are taken down by a clerk in pidgin-English, to be filed away and later forwarded to the Minister.For his own sake, I hope that the Minister will not regard it as necessary to read the reports. This provision illustrates the passion which some people have for inserting unnecessary matter in legislation. A good rule, which used tobe observed before this Government came into office, is to leave out of legislation as much as possible. Legislation should deal only with necessary matters, ancillary matters being left to the administration. I suppose that the administrator, who, by all accounts, is an intelligent and well-trained person, will consult with the village chiefs about native welfare, just as Sir Hubert Murray very wisely did. The psychological reactions of the natives are so very different from those of Europeans that such consultation is necessary. But is it necessary to appoint committees, to prepare reports and to keep minutes’? Surely not. That can all be left to the Administrator in the course of his ordinary duties. It has been done by him in the past, and I have no doubt that he will continue to do it. There is uo need to legislate about it. I have no doubt that ‘ the whole rigmarole about the advisory councils, with the culminating absurdity of keeping minutes in pidgin and in English, has been inserted in the bill as a piece of window dressing for the benefit of the United Nations. It may also be - for this whole matter seems to be clouded in mystery - that Australia’s representatives were told at the United Nations conference at San Francisco or Lake Success that such a provision should be included in our legislation. Perhaps the members of the Trusteeship Council, who seem to take such an interest in what I still maintain is strictly our own affair, gave a direction that our legislation should provide for the setting up of advisory councils, the keeping of minutes and the preparation of reports. If so, it is an indication of how little they know about the New Guinea natives and the state of their development and civilization. The Eggleston report, which is in line with the views of all recognized experts and anthropologists, states that the natives of New Guinea are in a pretribal state, which means that theirs is one of the lowest forms of society that has been developed.
– What a way in which to speak of the noble savage.
– I am not saying anything against the noble savage. I am speaking of the cultural development of the natives of New Guinea. As physical specimens, most of the natives are magnificent, and I myself should not mind having the physical contours of the average New Guinea native. Whether or not any good purpose can be served by setting up advisory councils and keeping written records must depend upon the state of development of the people who are to be administered, and who may be called upon for advice. I have no doubt that there are village chiefs in New Guinea who are capable of advising the Administrator. I know that advice has been given by them in the past. The whole point I wish to make, however, is that it is utterly unnecessary to make provisions of this kind in the form of legislation. I do not charge the Government with humbug in this matter. I believe that these provisions have been inserted in the bill because the Government believes that they will make its case a little better with the United Nations when it makes its reports to that body. If that be so, the Government is merely going cap in hand, and exhibiting it humility of attitude which, to me, is quite wrong in a sovereign country like Australia. I should like to see this absurd clause and the whole of this absurd, division struck out of the bill.
.- When the Government inserted in this clause a provision requiring that minutes of native village council meetings - gatherings of native wise men - be recorded and transmitted to the Administrator, and later sent by the Administrator to the Minister for External Territories, it probably had in mind the implementation of its policy of full employment. Statistics relating to New Guinea show that the native population of the islandnumbers 1,000,000. No doubt the number of native village councils thai will be established under this legislation will run into many thousands. According to a report furnished to honorable members the natives of New Guinea are divided into villages and communities, each consisting of about 200 persons. Every village will have to have’ its own local council. It will be necessary to appoint secretaries, minute recorders and stenographers to record in pidgin-English the wise words of some neolithic chieftain who cannot speak our language. The Administrator will probably have to employ a few hundred additional civil servants to transcribe, record and file these notes. But what iF a mere few hundred by comparison with the huge army of civil servants in .Australia ! If Australiana are entitled t«appoint clerks to every petty council ‘ assume that the tribal chiefs of New Guinea are entitled to the same courtesy. In the course of time no doubt many a dusky village maiden will learn to write the Pitman system of shorthand and each native village council will have a secretary at its disposal. The statistics relating to New Guinea show that there are 1,400 village policemen and that approximately l,80O councils are already functioning. The absurdity of this proposal is revealed by the report on Papua aud New Guinea issued by the Department of External Territories for the year 1946-47, at page 4 of which appears the following: -
The indigenous people of Papua may be broadly divided on the basis of either language or physical characteristics. From the viewpoint of language they comprise two great linguistic groups, those who speak branches of the Austronesian family of languages and those who do not. The Austronesian speaking peoples, who comprise many widely dispersed communities varying in language as well as physical type and culture, are found in the coastal and near coastal areas between Ville Island and the eastern extremity of the mainland and in the islands to the east and north-west of the D’Entrecasteaux group and the Louisiade Archipelago. The numerous and widely diversified groups scattered throughout the remainder of Papua, both in coastal areas and inland to the great central ranges, are not Austronesian speaking.
Thus, the Government’s own investigators have reported the almost insuperable language difficulties involved in a proposal such as this. In spite of that we are asked to approve of a clause making it mandatory for the Administrator and his officers to provide interpreters to record the minutes of the proceedings of village councils consisting in the main of people who have scarcely emerged from the head hunting stage. According to reports which I have read, many of them have not yet abandoned the practice of head-hunting. We are entitled to know the meaning of a provision such as this. To me, it means only one of two things, either that the Government, because of the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement, is compelled to make such a provision, or that the Government desires to impose on the Administrator and his officers such duties as will result in an enormous increase in the number of civil servants in New Guinea. Whatever may be the reason, it will result in the waste of much needed man-power both on the mainland and in New Guinea. We have not the resources of man-power available to us to undertake such unnecessary tasks. Officers of the Department of External Territories will have to attend these native village meetings for it is surely not to be expected that a sufficient number of educated natives will be available to record the minutes of the proceedings of these councils. Officers or retired officers of the Commonwealth Public Service will probably waste their time gravely recording what some native has to say about the cleaning of a village cesspit, or some other such trivial matter. The minutes of these proceedings will in turn be sent to the Administrator and thence to the Minister for External Territories at Canberra. The Minister already has his time fully occupied in carrying out bis existing duties.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am doing so. The clause provides that copies of the minute* of the proceedings of native village councils shall be transmitted to the Minister by the Administrator. The Minister already has plenty to do without having to study voluminous minutes written, probably, in pidgin-English. If the Government had any respect for the intelligence of honorable members, whoare expected to give serious thought to the measures placed before them, it would delete this absurd clause. If the clause is allowed to remain the services of many people who could be profitably employed on other duties will be wasted.
– I sympathize with the Government for having fallen for the suggestion made by young and untrained anthropologists that the provisions of this bill will result in uplifting the standards of the natives of New Guinea. It is apparent that members of the Government have given no thought to the matter. Obviously they have not mixed with, nor learned anything of the mentality of, the natives of New Guinea. I regret tesay that too many of them have not even mixed with our own aborigines. I am forcibly reminded of the fact that Wilberforce, that great Englishman who was responsible for bringing about the abolition of slavery, said that we have gone sofar that we must go further. I do not suggest for one moment that slavery has ever been practised in New Guinea. I applaud the advice given to the Government last night by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that members- of the Parliament should visit New Guinea in order to see for themselves what all this superfluity of silliness means. In the Northern Territory the advancement of the aborigines has been tackled under dual control. A battle royal took place between missionaries and the anthropologists. Fortunately for the aboriginals, and for ourselves, we have almost got rid of the anthropologists, [n the main, our aboriginal population is being trained in agriculture and stock herding by well-trained and understanding missionaries and stock owners. From this legislation it is apparent that the Government proposes to treat the natives in New Guinea as guinea pigs. The anthropologists having failed to formulate a worthwhile native affairs policy for our own aborigines, the Government is going wider afield and is endeavouring to give effect to the wild schemes of its young and comparatively untrained anthropologists for the betterment of the conditions of the natives of New Guinea. This bill should be put where it belongs -on the rubbish tip. At the very least, it should be redrafted to enable the missionaries to undertake the education and uplifting of the standards of the natives if New Guinea. To be qualified for such a task a missioner must have studied psychology and philosophy, as well as the history and customs of the native people. T. know of many missionaries who have the highest qualifications for such work; but, unfortunately, I know of many others who have striven in that field without the advantage of the necessary training. The missionaries who are sent to New Guinea should be very carefully culled. They should be trained in the education of people not only of superior races but also of backward and inferior races. If this field were left solely to the missionaries and to the practical people who are used to working in the territory the Government’ would be acting in the best interests of the natives themselves. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) have all said that this bill does not make sense to them. It does not make sense to me. Indeed, 1 am disgusted with its whole concept. 1 believe that the Government has had it* leg pulled by young and comparatively untrained anthropologists who were given carte blanche to go to New Guinea and to treat the unfortunate natives as though they were mere exhibits. Apparently, in the future, minutes will be taken of the proceedings of every native village meeting held under a sycamore or a bean tree and which will be sent on to the Adminis trator, and even to the Minister himself at Canberra. Instead of authority being given to untrained anthropologists - and their number is legion - to shape government policy on this matter, the Government should have endeavoured to persuade that great anthropologist, Dr. Stanner, to return to Australia from Africa in order to advise it. Dr. Stanner would probably suggest that the whole of thi? bill should be redrafted. I am gare that Mr. Halligan, the secretary of the Department of External Territories, and many other senior officers of the department, could redraft the bill and make it really worth while. Instead, the bill wasdrafted by some pseudo scientist with hi.1head in the clouds. The measure should be withdrawn and redrafted by some person familiar with conditions in New Guinea. If might well be re-written by the missionaries who have had so much experience among these savages.
– They were the “ fuzzy wuzzy “ angels during the war. Now thihonorable member calls them savages.
– Last night honorable member? on this side of the chamber agreed to the passage of clause 24, which provides that minutes of the Executive Council of the Territory of New Guinea should be sent to the Minister for External Territories in Canberra. We found no fault with that provision, because it is only reasonable . to suppose that the Minister will desire to have early, first-hand information about the views and decisions of the Executive Council in the territory. However, advisory councils are to be established, and the bill provides that a majority of the members of each advisory council shall be natives. I am not sure what the illiteracy quotient of the population of the territory is, but it is not suggested that the native members nf the advisory councils will be able to read or write. The transmission of documented minutes of the meetings of every advisory council will result in the accumulation of a pile of utterly useless paper in some office in Canberra. The bill does not even refer to the number of advisory councils that may be appointed. That matter will be decided by the Administration. I could understand a provision which stated that the minutes of the meetings of the advisory councils should be submitted to the Administrator so that that official might have first-hand information of happenings in the advisory councils in the territory entrusted to his care, but I do not know why the minutes should be sent to the Minister in Canberra. Perhaps the Minister prefers to do his penance in this world, and will read the records of the advisory councils in the hope of being pardoned in the hereafter. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has suggested that the Government is intent on creating additional employment. We might encourage young Australian poets by asking them to rewrite the minutes of the advisory council meetings in blank verse, and assign some of our young composers to set that blank verse to music. When we establish a State orchestra, those compositions may be played to us. From the standpoint of enlightenment in that direction, the minutes of the meetings of the advisory council may be very useful. However, I cannot see that they will serve any useful purpose, irrespective of the language in which they are recorded. In ancient Babylon, scholars used to record their minutes in clay, and bake the clay into bricks. Those records are still in existence for learned people to read. In Egypt the scholars carved records in stone. In parts of Iceland, Greenland and on the eastern coast of America, the ancients carved runic symbols, which no modern scholar is able to read. In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayas also made carvings which have not yet been deciphered. Other strange markings have been found in Peru and on Easter Island. However, no carvings on Easter Island present such a puzzle as this clause does.
– The representative of Iraq may understand it.
– I do not know whether he will be able to understand it. He will probably know more about oil leases and polygamy than about this provision. The clause serves no useful purpose whatever. It will result in a waste of public money, and lead to a deliberate misuse of man-power at a time when the Government states that there are not sufficient men in the Commonwealth to do all the work that is required. Some persons are not overanxious to increase the rainfall by spilling very much sweat. I say to the Minister, with all the good feeling and comradeship that I can muster towards a fellow “ Crow-eater”, that we should use our common sense about this matter. If the Government will use its common sense it will agree to the deletion of this clause, and there will be no need to accumulate useless and unnecessary records in this delectable capital city.
– I cannot allow this occasion to pass without repudiating the reflections that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has cast upon the New Guinea natives. Recently, I visited New Guinea, and at every airstrip where my aircraft landed, I was met by members of the Papuan and New Guinea native constabulary. It would not be an exaggeration to say that 50 per cent. of those native constables wore awards that had been granted to them in recognition of their bravery during World War II. in assisting the allied forces. Some of those natives performed remarkable deeds of heroism in our service. One of the natives to whom I spoke had donned a Japanese uniform and associated with Japanese troops. He took his life into his hands every day by communicating information to the Australian and American forces. Throughout Papua and New Guinea, there are thousands of” graves of natives who laid down their lives in our service during the war.
– And there are many graves of allied servicemen who were betrayed by New Guinea natives.
– All the natives of Papua and New Guinea are not savages. All of them are not unintelligent. Many of them rendered excellent service to the Allies during the war. Had it not been for their efforts and devotion to duty, many more Australian lives would have been lost in the war against the Japanese. I take strong exception to the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who allowed himself to ‘be carried away by his feelings to such a degree that he showed poor appreciation of the services of the natives who did so much for our cause.
– I cannot allow the remarks of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to pass without comment. Members of the Opposition are endeavouring to assist him in this debate, but he has responded by delivering what he considers to be an impassioned defence of the New Guinea natives. He said that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has slandered them. That is not correct.
– Order 1 I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the clause before the Chair, which provides that the minutes of each meeting of an advisory council shall be kept, and copies thereof forwarded to the Administrator and the Minister for External Territories.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant to the clause. The natives of New Guinea are a diverse people. In one mountainous area, the natives are veritable giants, but other natives living in close proximity to them are almost dwarfs. Some natives are head hunters, whilst others who live in the vicinity of Port Moresby are civilized. Some of the natives rendered great assistance to Australian troops during World War II., but others were not engaged in the war against the Japanese. It is futile for the Minister to beat his breast and declare that he will defend the New Guinea natives against slander. Such remarks are out of place in this debate. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, who uttered certain critical remarks. was tortured by the Japanese and was a victim of their savagery, and in the circumstances, he was entitled to make a few fair comments. It is useless for the Minister to endeavour to divert discussion from this clause by making an appeal on behalf of the NewGuinea natives. We know that some of the natives played their part during the war, but their loyalty to the Allies is indirectly a tribute to the white planter? in the territory.
– Order ! This clause contains no reference to white planters. I ask the honorable member not to digress.
– I shall relate my remarks to the clause. The fact that the New Guinea natives have behaved as well as they have, and have reached their present standard of social development, is due to splendid administration and leadership, and to the friendship that the white planters have shown them. The Minister should not have allowed his feelings to run away with him as he did.
.- The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has made a speech which, upon reflection, he will regret.
– No. It is members of the Opposition who will be sorry.
– The Minister embarked upon a sentimental tirade in an endeavour to justify the inclusion in this bill of Division 3 relating to advisory councils for native matters, and native village councils. It does not matter, for the purposes of this debate, whether the natives of New Guinea were loyal to the Allies during World War II., or whether they betrayed American and Australian servicemen to the Japanese. The point which we must remember is that they are a primitive people. I emphasize the following words in the Eggleston report : -
One of the Territories, New Guinea, te in a pre-tribal stone-age level of political organization.
The Minister may grow sentimental and even heated about the matter, but he cannot ignore the anthropological facts. In such circumstances, what value can there be in the proposal to establish native councils and to provide that a solemn record shall be kept of their meetings ? Any matters that are raised at such meetings may be dealt with administratively. This clause has been included in the bill for a definite reason. We may talk about the history of New Guinea until the cows come home, and refer emotionally to the undoubted feats of heroism and fortitude that individual natives exhibited in the war against the Japanese, just as some honorable members may even speak from the soreness of their hearts about natives who betrayed Australian servicemen to the Japanese, but this matter is not to be decided on those grounds. We are not sitting in judgment of the natives of New Guinea. We are trying to formulate a plan for the administration of the territory. Division 3 of the bill is not genuinely needed and ha9 been included in the legislation as window dressing for the United Nations.
.- I see nothing wrong with the proposal that the minutes of each meeting of an advisory council shall be kept and copies thereof transmitted to the Administrator and the Minister for External Territories. In my opinion, that provision is perfectly sound. At the meetings of an advisory council, natives will have an opportunity to voice grievances, such as detribalization, and matters affecting their livelihood. A record will be made of those complaints, and copies will be transmitted to the Administrator and the Minister. I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) into a historical review of records kept in the stone age, or even to deal with a suggestion that the records of the meetings be kept in pidgin-English, but I believe that the minutes may be most valuable. As in the past, the natives will be guided to a considerable degree by the district officers. The story of New Guinea would not be complete without references to the help that has been given to the natives by the Administrator’s staff. It is a waste of time to discuss this clause as members of the Opposition have done. I do not regard the provision as window dressing for the United Nations, as the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has suggested. It is a part of a regular plan, even an unsentimental plan to encourage the natives to become vocal, and to have their thoughts and opinions recorded.
.- The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), in his emotional outburst, did not reply to any of the matters thathonorable members on this side of the chamber have raised in the debate on this clause.
– The honorable member was not present when I gave a fullreply.
– The Minister has tried to draw a red herring across the trail. He delivered an emotional outburst about the qualities of the New Guinea natives.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Richmond is entitled to refer to an emotional outburst when the committee is considering a clause that relates to the keeping of official minutes of meetings.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member for Richmond to relate his remarks to the keeping of official minutes.
– I am replying to statements that the Minister has made in this discussion. I invite honorable members to read the clause so that they may judge whether the Minister’s remarks were relevant.
– I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether you propose to allow the reflection on the Chair that was made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) to pass unnoticed.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is learning the Standing Orders in the hard way. When he raises objections that are not sustained he realizes that he has again made a mistake. The committee is discussing clause 28. Honorable members are not supposed to deal with any matter that is outside the scope of the clause before the Chair. However, some latitude is allowed in debate in committee and we are very often allowed to wander a little. Clause 28 reads as follows : - (1.) Minutes of each meeting of an Advisory Council shall be kept and copies thereof shall be forwarded to the Administrator. (2.) Copies of the minutes shall be transmitted to the Minister by the Administrator as soon as practicable after each meeting.
That is all that the committee is discussing atpresent. The Minister delivered an impassioned speech about the services that have been rendered by New Guinea natives in the defence of the territory. He said that they should not be classed as savages and that they are in an almost civilized state. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have contended that, having regard to the people who will form the majority of the members of these advisory councils, it would be ridiculous to insist upon minutes of the meetings being kept. The assemblies will be, in effect, native village councils and not white men’s councils. The majority of the members will come from native villages in remote parts of New Guinea.
I direct the attention of the honorable member for Parkes, who is a keen student of Australian literature, to a recent Australian publication which has come to us under the auspices of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and PacificRelations. It describes the people of New Guinea in the following words : -
The people are still in a neolithic culture, organized in small autonomous and virtually autachic communities, averaging perhaps 200 persons, with wide local variations of language and custom . . . The coat of maintaining minimum administrative control in such a country is relatively high.
That is an extract from the latest publi cation of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and Pacific Relations. No one will challenge that statement. To adopt the provisions of this clause would be to add to the burdens of the Administrator, without achieving an increase of efficiency or rendering better services to the people concerned. The analogy that springs to my mind is the issue of a direction to Australian municipal and shire councils to send copies of the minutes of each of their meetings to the Prime Minister in Canberra. That would be equally as absurd as the proposal in this clause. At least, the Prime Minister and his staff in Canberra–
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I am drawing an analogy. In Australia we are organized into communities. Our municipal councils are equivalent to the village councils that will be established by this legislation. It would be regarded as utterly ridiculous if it were suggested that provision should be made in an Australian act of Parliament for Australian municipal councils to send copies of the minutes of their meetings to the Prime Minister. The people who will be affected by the provisions of this clause have widely diverse customs and languages. Some of them live on the coast of New Guinea, some in the swamp lands, some in the deltas and some in the mountains. They are organized in small communities of approximately 200 people. In those circumstances, would it be possible to comply with these provisions? If it would not be possible to do so, why should they be inserted in the bill? Why must we have all this humbug which will result in a waste of man-power at a time when we need the services of every man in the community?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 agreed to.
Clause 30 (The Public Service)-
.-I hope to obtain an assurance from the Minister that the members of the Public Service in Papua and New Guinea will in future be treated by this Government better than they have been treated in the past. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction among them. I have read in this chamber letters from Public Service associations in Papua and New Guinea in which complaints have been made about the treatment of their members by the Government. The associations have written to the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) repeatedly and have attempted, without success to send delegations to the Administrator. It is possible that some of the complaints have been adjusted recently, but when members of a Public Service, through their organizations, go to the length of writing to members of the Parliament and requesting that their complaints should be ventilated in the Parliament it shows that not enough attention has been paid to them. I do not propose to take up the time of the committee by going into details, but too many people from outside of the Public Service in
Papua and New Guinea have been appointed to positions which should be filled by public servants. I read in this chamber recently a letter that I had received concerning the Director of Shipping, Mr. Leighton. Part of the letter was in these terms -
The most active political propagandist in Port Moresby to-day is a man named Leighton. He is in the employ of the Administration. He is called locally “ Director of Shipping” but, in my opinion, he probably is merely the agent of the Australian Shipping Board. Mr. Leighton definitely was a steward aboard ships which traded on the Australian coast, and, as far as any one knows, this is his chief qualification to be a director of shipping. It is understood that he held some commissioned post in the Army during the war. He is undoubtedly a protege of Mr. Ward and directed one or two of Mr. Ward’s election campaigns.
The Minister for External Territories was present in the chamber when I read that letter, but so far there has been no refutation of the allegation. The honorable gentleman admitted that this man had been associated with him in his political campaigns. I do not know the circumstances in which Mr. Leighton was appointed to his present position, but I am sure that honorable members will not deny that if a Minister’s friends who are not members of the Public Service are being appointed to lucrative positions in the Public Service, it is distinctly unfair to permanent members of the service, unless the appointees are men of outstanding ability.
A letter that I have received to-day from a New Guinea planter contains the following passage : -
There appears to be a complete breakdown in the Directorate of Shipping, with the result that service to plantations has got so far behind that I cannot see how they can pick up again. I cannot vouch for these figures, but I believe them to be substantially correct. Garua has 3.000 bags on hand, Bali 3,000, Numa Numa 10,000–
There are other figures with which I shall not trouble the committee. The letter proceeds -
All plantations in New Ireland, Bainings, &c, are reported to be similarly affected.
– The shipping problem is not peculiar to New Guinea.
Mr.WHITE.- Of course it is not. The world is crying out for the products of these plantations, but they are being allowed to rot on the wharfs and to depreciate in value. Something better than that should be done. Now that the portfolio of External Territories has changed hands, I ask the Minister who now holds it to inquire into these allegations and to ascertain whether the responsible officials are doing their jobs efficiently. There may be some reason why ships do not sail, such as trouble on the waterfront. The letter that I am about to read concerns a man who was associated with Mr. Leighton. Let this statement be denied if it is not true. It is as follows: -
It is believed that he laid the foundation of a transport union there which will be closely allied with the Communist Australian Seamen’s Union. During his stay in Port Moresby he was closely associated with Leighton.
Inquiries should be made into that statement.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that all public servants should be members of the Liberal party?
– I do not care what their politics are as long as they are efficient. They should be the best men who are available for the job. When some public servants requested that houses be provided for them in the Port Moresby area, 24 houses were built at a cost of £48,000. There are many incidents of that kind, but I do not propose to take up the time of the committee in reciting them. The Minister at the table has taken over this portfolio and it is to be hoped that he will retain it for the rest of the life of this Government, which will not be very long. By the end of this year, the Government will be out of office. During the time that remains, let the Minister ensure that justice is done to the public servants in these territories and that those of them who have lived in the tropics for years and given of their best to the service are given their reward. Let no interlopers come in to take the plums of the positions. Let the conditions of service be as good as the Government can provide. Let the Minister take steps to avoid everything being concentrated in Port Moresby. I pointed out last night that 5,000 of the 10,000 odd natives who are employed in Papua are working for the Government. In some villages all of the men are taken to their government jobs in the morning by government transport and taken back again at night. They are living on imported food. The planters are not getting a fair reward for their labour.. The following extract from the Pacific Islands Monthly has been confirmed by letters that I have received from planters : -
There has been no change in the copra market so far as it affects Papua and New Guinea. The planter is still being forced to sell his product to the Australian Government at a sum very much under world parity. fS per ton is still being taken from him arbitrarily by the Australian Government for what is called a stabilization fund - a mysterious fund of which no one outside of bureaucracy knows anything. The Government, through the Production Control Board, pays the planter just over £40 a ton. The Production Control Board pays freight and charges and sells in Sydney at £00 a ton.
The planter is not allowed to sell at world parity. He must sell his product to this governmental board.
– The price of copra has nothing to do with the Public Service. The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the clause.
– The Production Control Board takes the planters’ copra. The board is part of the Public Service, which is now under review. The board sells the planters’ copra at £60 a ton.
– Order ! I have ruled that the honorable gentleman is not entitled to deal with that matter.
– If I am not allowed to refer to it now the debate will be lengthened, because I shall do so in relation to later clauses. It would have saved time if I had been permitted to finish what I want to say. I ask the Minister to inquire into the wrongs that have been done to members of the Public Service. These men are not “ squealers “. They are mostly ex-servicemen, and many of them have spent a lifetime of service in New Guinea and Papua. I ask the Minister to see that they are given their just dues and looked after as well as the members of the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra.
– When I was in New Guinea and Papua I met some of the public servants in Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. The difficulties that confronted them were explained to me. I gave an assurance that I would do everything possible to make their lives as happy as they could be made in the territory. I can go no further than that. They are suffering from difficulties and irritations but steps are being taken to remedy them.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister to the pensions that are being paid to retired members of the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea. Some of these men have told me that they recently applied to the Minister for their pensions to be increased in the same way as the pensions of retired public servants who served on the mainland have been increased. Thimen of whom I am speaking retired many years ago and are not classified in the same category as those who are at present in the service.
– The matter to which the honorable gentleman ha? referred is under investigation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 31 agreed to.
Clause 32- (1.) Notwithstanding the repeal of the Acts repealed by section three of this Act, but subject to this Act -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), after the word “Papua”, the following words bc inserted: - “ (except regulations in force under the Papua Act 1005-1940) “.
The amendment is related to the amendment to be made to sub-clause 2 of clause 75 and the insertion of the proposed new clause 75a. The Auditor-General of the Commonwealth has always been responsible for the audit of the accounts of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea.
His authority was derived, in the case of Papua, from regulations and in the case of New Guinea, from ordinances. It is considered that, in the case of New Guinea, the Auditor-General should derive his authority direct from this Parliament, and the proposed amendment will achieve that end.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I am troubled by the fact that under the provisions of clauses 32 and 33 the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia will not be applicable to the territory unless expressly made so in particular statutes passed by this Parliament from time to time. That raises the whole question of the control that the Parliament can exercise over immigration into the Territory of New Guinea. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give me some information on that aspect. An examination of the Immigration Act 1901-1940, which act is the basis of that part of Australia’s immigration policy which is usually loosely termed the “ White Australia policy shows that the act is applicable only to immigration into the mainland of Australia and does not apply to immigration into our territories. That being se, clauses 32 and 33 are very significant, because they provide that, unless specifically stated, no Australian law is to be applicable to the territory. The Immigration Act does not include such a specific statement. We might consider that we could, from time to time, pass individual statutes to control immigration, and it might be said in answer to the points that I have raised, that we already have ordinances that can control the entry into the territory of individuals, desirable or otherwise. But the answer would conflict with Article 76 of the United Nations Charter under which we hold the territory in trusteeship. I have already read Article 76 twice to honorable members. I have read it once in answer to an interjection that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) last night. Unfortunately he was not present when I read it. I remind the committee that under Articles 4 and 5 of the Trusteeship Agreement we hold the territory subject to the objectives of the trusteeship system as set out in Article 76 of the Charter which gives those basic objectives, and states that we shall - ensure equal treatment in social, economic and commercial matters for all Members of the United Nations and their nationals, . . ..
That can be said to be the overriding: principle which must govern any legislation concerning New Guinea that this Parlaiment may pass. I remind the House that the nationals of “ all members of the United Nations” include people of many religions and many different standards of civilization. That being so, where is the legal authority for Australia to control adequately the How of immigration into New Guinea o£ people who claim to be members of the United Nations? I do not desire to be dogmatic, and perhaps the Minister may be able to supply me with an answer. I confess that this particular matter has disturbed me because, if paragraph d of Article 76 overrides our statutes in this matter - and it would appear to do so - we shall have a great deal of trouble later on when nationals of other members of the United Nations seek to go into the territory, perhaps in large numbers. The provisions of these two clauses, in conjunction with paragraph d of Article 76 of the Charter, might result in conditions that would operate to the detriment of the native population of the territory.
– I do not know whether the honorable member has studied clause 52 (i) of the bill. Ordinances relating to immigration, emigration or deportation are to be reserved for the Governor-General’s pleasure. Such ordinances would lie on the table of the House. I understand that such ordinances would make the provisions to which ‘ the honorable member has referred.
.- I am grateful to the Minister (Mr. Chambers), whose answer to one aspect of my remarks indicates that there is provision in this measure for ordinances to be passed governing immigration into the territory. I know that I assume that the ordinances already in existence wall, when this bill comes into force, be superseded by the new ordinances. The other aspect that I mentioned still remains unanswered. We may have the power under clause 52 of the ‘bill to pass ordinances relating to immigration, but what would happen if we passed an ordinance in similar terms to section 5 of the Immigration Act, to control the flow of people into the territory, and forbidding certain people to enter the territory except under certain conditions, if those ordinances discriminated against certain nationals? Would those ordinances conflict violently with paragraph d of Article 76 of the Charter? This is a fundamental issue, because it raises again the objection that other honorable members raised during this debate. I refer, of course, to the disadvantageous position in which Australia is being placed by taking this territory into trusteeship on the terms provided. It is not sufficient to say that, under the old mandate system, we suffered from the same disability. That might be so, but the world has changed in the last 25 years, in some respects for the worse, and, with the inarch of civilization, tides may flow down towards Australia from the north and north-west that would constitute a much greater threat to us and our way of life than was ever thought to be likely in 1919, when the mandate system was instituted. I am not raising this matter as a party political issue. I confess that it is disturbing me because my interpretation of it seems to indicate that the provisions of the Charter will prevent Australia from passing legislation that it might think necessary for the regulation of immigration into the territory, for the protection of the 2,000.000 subtribal natives who live there. We may think that we could pass a desired law just as we pleased, but I remind honorable members that any law that we passed in contravention of the provisions of the Charter would be challenged not only in our own courts, but also before the United Nations and would become an international matter.
. - I refer the honorable member to paragraph d of Article 76 of the Charter which I consider clears up the point that he has raised. The difficulties that the honorable member foresees should not occur.
– Does not the Minister consider that the phrase “ equal treatment on social and economic matters “, will open the door to difficulties of the kind to which I have alluded ?
– I shall examine the matter and perhaps on some other occasion I shall give the honorable member an opportunity to have the point cleared up.
– It will be too late then.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36- (1.) The Legislative Council shall consist of twenty-nine members, namely : -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (d), the word “ religious “ be left out, with a viewto insert in lieu thereof the word “ Christian
I appreciate the remarks that the Minister (Mr. Chambers) made earlier to-day in connexion with the work of the Christian missions in the territories. They could be applied to all Christian missions everywhere. I am not happy about the word “ religious “, because I consider that its meaning can be so widely interpreted as to make its use inadvisable. The word “ religious can refer to such religions as Mohammedanism, or to the religions followed by savages that sometimes include cannibalism as a rite. We should not encourage such religions. By substituting the word “ Christian “ for the word “ religious “ we should not be acting contrary to the decision of the United Nations in this matter, because the Charter provides for freedom of worship to be determined by each nation. Thin Parliament should not encourage the representation in the Legislative Council of non-Christian religions.I consider that much of the civilization and progress of the territory has been the result of the work of missionaries, and I endorse the
Minister’s remarks in that connexion. The teachings of the missionaries, supported by the example of the pioneers, many of whom lost their lives in the cause of Christianity, have changed the outlook of the natives, turning their thoughts from cannibalism to ideals that more nearly approach to Christianity. The experience of those missionaries did much to improve the civilization of the territory. Nothing civilizes any country where savage conditions prevail more than Christianity does. To substitute the word “ religious “ for the word Christian “ I think opens the door too wide. I do not doubt the sincerity of natives that worship in other ways, but I would not encourage their religions because they do not embrace the ideals that we as a Christian nation sponsor. I hope that the Minister will indicate whether the substitution was made by the Government on its own initiative or whether it was due to pressure by the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, because we suspect that some principles enunciated by the United Nations are initiated by Soviet thought. I should welcome the Minister’s assurance that the use of the term “ religious “ instead of “ Christian “ represents only the Government’s thought on the matter and was not sponsored by the United Nations. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– I assure the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) that there was no pressure by the Trusteeship Council for the substitution of the word “ religious “ for the word “ Christian “. I refer the honorable member to Article 8 of the Trusteeship Agreement, which reads -
The Administering Authority undertakes that in the discharge of its obligations under Article 3 of this agreement:
it will, in accordance with its established policy :
guarantee to the inhabitants of the Territory, subject only to the requirements of public order, freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of petition, freedom of conscience and worship and freedom of religious teaching.
I understand that the Administrator, in looking through the bill, as originally drafted, noticed the word “ Christian “ and that he realized that perhaps there would be certain religious missions in New Guinea that would not fall within the definition of Christian. I have in mind, for instance, missions of the Hebrew faith, which while being religious organizations are not Christian.
– There are no Hebrew missions in New Guinea.
– I do not know of any. I need not take up the time of the committee, because I have given the amendment serious thought and am prepared to accept it and replace the word “ religious “ by the word “ Christian “.
.- My brother was a missionary in New Guinea until he died in Japanese hands. He had the utmost respect for the Chinese community in Rabaul and elsewhere. I should like to know whether, if the word “ Christian “ is accepted, the Chinese will be deprived of the right to conduct their own religious organizations.
– Not at all.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 37 to 53 - by leave - considered together.
– Clause 37 sets out the disqualifications for membership of the Legislative Council. A man may not be a member of the council if he is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offences punishable by imprisonment for a year or more. Those are understandable disqualifications. No person may serve as a member of the council if he engages for profit in the exploitation of timber leases in the territory and so on. Legislative councillors shall be disqualified from continuance of membership if they are absent from so many consecutive meetings of the council or if they take fees or honorariums for services rendered in the council. All those disqualifications are provided for. Clause 36 provides for a legislative council that will include nonofficial members. It is conceivable that
Communists could be appointed or elected to the council. There is nothing to disqualify a Communist from appointment or election. We have tried in this chamber to amend measures to prevent the employment of Communists in munition works and other governmental undertakings, but always without success. The amendment just acceptedby the Government to clause 36 is a good one, because we must have Christian teaching, since Christianity is the most important thing in the world. We must ensure that members of the council shall take the oath of allegiance and give allegiance to the Ring and to the Commonwealth. The list of disqualifications does not include the disqualification of persons who refuse to take the oath of allegiance. It is quite possible that there could be appointed to the council men who were not loyal to the King and would not even take the. oath of allegiance. Yet the Administrator and his deputy are required to take the oath of allegiance. Members of the Legislative Council should also be required to take it. I have carefully examined the bill, but I have been unable to find any provision requiring them to take it. I should like the Minister to explain the apparent omission. I concede that I may have overlooked such a requirement. Members of this Parliament and of every State parliament are required to take oath of allegiance or to make an affirmation. I merely seek information, but I cannot let the bill go through without it. I hope that if such a provision has been omitted the Minister will agree to its insertion.
– In my examination of the bill, I did not notice that point. I should have thought that clause 18 would cover it, but I assure the honorable gentleman that as Federal and State members of parliament have to swear or affirm their allegiance so members of the Legislative Council for the territory will have to do so. I shall have the point examined before the bill reaches the Senate.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 57 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Clauses 58 to 64 - by leave - considered together.
– Clause 64 relates to a very important principle. It provides - (1.) The High Court shall have jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such conditions as are provided by Ordinance, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences of the Supreme. Court of the Territory, and the decision of the High Court on any such appeal shall be final and conclusive.
It is proposed, therefore, that the High Court of Australia shall be the final court of appeal in the judicial system of the territory. Yet we find that this Government carries appeals to the Privy Council.
– Order! The honorable member may not debate that question.
– I am not debating it. I am merely pointing to the fact that this legislation does not conform to the judicial system of the Commonwealth of Australia. Surely I am entitled to show that the bill proposes a system different from that customary in Australia. I should like the Minister to explain why the Governmentproposes that the final court of appeal shall be the High Court. I wonder why it is not prepared to give to residents of New Guinea and Papua the same consideration in legal action as is given to residents of Australia, who may take litigation to the Privy Council. The territory is an integral part of the Commonwealth and its residents should have the same rights-, privileges and freedoms as we have. The laws of the territory may in certain minor particulars vary from those of Australia, but, fundamentally, there should be no difference in the treatment of Australians living in New Guinea and Australians living on the mainland. I should be interested to hear the Minister say why the Government proposes to prevent citizens of the territory from carrying litigation to the Privy Council and why it wishes them to be satisfied with the High Court as their final court of appeal.
– Clause 64 was copied from the Papua Act 1905, which provides - 43.- (1.) The High Court shall have jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as are prescribed by Ordinance, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences of the Central Court of the Territory, and the judgment of the High Court shall be final and conclusive . . .
– That does not satisfy me. That legislation was passed when conditions were entirely different from those of to-day. To allow appeals to the Privy Council would necessarily conflict with the established policy of the Labour Government, because the platform of the Australian Labour party–
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss the platform of the Australian Labour party.
– I do not propose to do so. Ear be it from me to discuss the platform of the Australian Labour party. But the established principle of the party is opposed to appeals to the Privy Council. It believes that the High Court of Australia should be the final court of appeal. Yet the Government uses its right to appeal to the Privy Council.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! The honorable member must discontinue that line of argument or resume his seat. What the Government did in another matter has nothing to do with the clause.
– May I not illustrate the manner in which the Government is departing from the accepted policy for residents of Australia. The transfer of people from Australia to New Guinea or Papua should not rob them of their Australian rights. They should be entitled to the same protection of the law when they move to New Guinea or Papua as they would enjoy in Australia. I think the Chair must accept that point. When I indicate that the Government proposes to deny to residents of the territory a right not denied to residents of Australia, surely the Chair will allow me to illustrate the way in which the proposed restriction on residents of the territory will apply. The Minister begs the question when he tells me that this provision was taken from the old act. Bad provisions in old acts do not lose their badness when transplanted to new acts.
– We thought that this was one of the good provisions.
– The attitude of the Government is that the right that is given to Australian people living in Australia is to be denied to them if they go to live in the territory. The Minister cannot justify his refusalto allow Australian citizens the right to appeal to the Privy Council.
– It strikes me as strange that the Government, after having introduced the Nationality and Citizenship Act, should have attempted to deny to some of the subjects of his Sovereign Majesty the King, the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. An appeal to the Privy Council is really an appeal to the King himself, but since the King no longer sits in judgment, appeals are heard by the Privy Council. Apparently, the Government is to enjoy the right of appeal to the Privy Council, but the taxpayer is not to enjoy it. 1 maintain that what is sauce for the Government goose should be sauce for the taxpayer gander. Of course, the Government is a little touchy just now about appeals to the Privy Council. However, it should not be assumed that the Government will necessarily be a party to all litigation arising in the Territory of New Guinea.I ndividual citizens, who have the means, might wish to carry their cases to the Privy Council for decision. There is another reason why it is particularly important that the right of appeal to the Privy Council should be enjoyed by Australian citizens resident in New Guinea. Australia does not stand in the same relation to New Guinea as it does to Papua, which is ours by right under the law. We are to administer New Guinea under a trusteeship only. Whatever justification there might be for including clause 3, paragraph b in the platform of the Australian Labour party, there is no justification for trying to incorporate it in this bill.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 65 (Welfare and developments projects)..
.- This clause, in part, reads -
Without prejudice to the operation of anyother provision of this Act or of any law of the Territory -
That provision has reference to the establishment of boards for the control and sale of primary products, including copra. The Government is taking over the copra produced by planters in Papua and New Guinea, and is paying them the equivalent of about £A.40 a ton for it.
– Order! There is nothing in the clause about the price of copra. The wording of the clause is as follows : -
On. Without prejudice to the operation of any other provision of this Act or of any law of the Territory -
The Minister may, with the concurrence of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, make arrangements or agreements for any purpose likely to promote the development of the resources of the Territory or the welfare of its inhabitants, and any sums required by the Minister for the purpose of any such arrangement or agreement shall be paid out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for that purpose; and
The honorable member cannot read into that any reference to the price of any commodity.
– Well, read on.
– The clause continues -
– Am I right?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No, the honorable member is out of order. He may not canvass the price of any commodity. The clause deals with the making of agreements for the marketing of products.
– Very well, I shall continue without mentioning prices. The clause deals with the marketing of commodities. The Government of the United Kingdom has offered to buy the copra produced in New Guinea, but the Government has allowed a board to take over the planters’ product. Because of the shortage of shipping, the copra is rotting on the wharfs, although we could do with it in Australia, and it is urgently needed by Britain and other countries. The Government is withholding from the planters a large proportion of the value of their product, and is putting it into some mysterious fund, which has never been audited, and about which no report has ever been presented. About one- fifth of the value of the copra is retained by the Government. Planters in Fiji and other Pacific islands are able to sell their products freely to the Government of the United Kingdom, and on the world market. I ask the Minister either to justify the action of the Government, or to end the present system. The board was set up during the war when marketing conditions were chaotic. At that time, something had to be done to protect the industry, but the Government is now exercising a monopoly over a valuable product, and is taking down the planters in the process.
– I should like to know how it is possible to conduct marketing without reference to prices. I always understood that the primary purpose of a marketing board was to obtain a price and, in some instances, to fix a price.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is trying to canvass the ruling of the Chair. He cannot point to any marketing act in which a price is fixed for a commodity. Marketing acts authorize the establishment of an authority, which conducts marketing operations and deals with prices.
– Then it follows that the board to be set up under this bill might market primary products without getting any price for them ?
– Order ! The honorable member is trying to be facetious.
– I suggest that the Minister study the early part of Chapter 55 of the Book of
Isaiah. As 1 was not allowed to quote Scripture this afternoon, 1 sent bacs to the library the Bible, which I bad obtained from it. The Government is taking up in regard to marketing arrangements in New Guinea the same attitude as is described in the chapter I have referred to.
– The Government is conscious of the grave need to enter into an agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom for the purchase of copra produced in the territory. I am now able to announce that an agreement has been reached between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Australian Government for the purchase of copra at a price which I believe will be very acceptable to the planters in Papua and New Guinea.
– Will there still be a stabilization fund?
– That has not yet been decided. The stabilization fund was established when the market for copra was very precarious. Now that an agreement has been reached with the Government of the United Kingdom, we shall consider what should be done about the stabilization fund.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 66 to 70 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Clauses 71 to 74 - by leave - considered together.
– I submit that sub-clause 1 of clause 71 should be deleted. It reads -
The slave trade is prohibited in the Territory.
Does the Government believe that there is any possibility that the slave trade might exist under the administration that is to be set up? I have always believed that people who live under the Union Jack enjoy freedom.
– But some of the native tribes might practise slavery.
– No human being who stands beneath the folds of the Union Jack can be enslaved. If sub-clause 1 remains in the bill, it might give rise to the belief that slavery can exist under our administration. We do not want other nations to think that we would tolerate slavery in any territory under our control. The natives of New Guinea must realize that the recent war was fought to defend freedom. Australia and the Empire stand for freedom, and there is no reason why, in the year 1949, it should be necessary to include in legislation passed by the Australian Parliament a provision that the slave trade is prohibited. The inclusion of the subclause 1 is an affront to the people of Australia, and to the men who fought in two world wars in defence of freedom.
– A little while ago, I asked a question about the prevalence of forced labour in Russia. I have since received a letter, dated the 22nd February, sent to me under the instruction of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and signed by John Burton, the Secretary of the department. In this letter, it is stated that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 Sudeten Germans, many of them with anti-Nazi records, in slave camps in their native land of Czechoslovakia. Seeing that Australia is required to report on its administration of New Guinea to the United Nations, which includes the greatest of all slave nations, Soviet Russia, it is well that the letter to which I* have referred should be placed on record. It is overlong to read now, but I ask for permission to have it incorporated in Hansard in order to show that one of the nations to . which we are required to report on slavery is itself a slave state.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It might be a good thing to have the letter incorporated in Hansard, but its subject-matter is not relevant to this clause. I advise the honorable member to avail himself of some other opportunity to have it placed on record.
.- It is a pity that the letter mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) cannot be included in the record at this stage. The Trusteeship Council, to which Australia is responsible for its administration of New Guinea, includes Russia. When I questioned the Prime Minister about certain charges which he said had been made at the meeting of the Trusteeship Council, and which led to the withdrawal of the earlier measure, the right honorable gentleman admitted frankly that the representative of Russia was one of those who made such charges. If Russia is to be permitted to inquire into what we are doing in New Guinea, surely it is only right that we should have an opportunity, through the Hansard record, to tell Russia, a backward nation with a barbarous policy, that there is no slavery in New Guinea.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The forms of the Parliament provide ample opportunities for the honorable member for Barker to incorporate in
Hansard at some other and more appropriate occasion the letter to which he has referred. The letter is irrelevant to the clause before the committee. If the Chair didnot apply the Standing Orders, the proceedings of the committee could not be continued.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 75 - (2.) The receipt, expenditure, control and audit of revenues and moneys of the Territory shall be regulated as provided by Ordinance.
Amendment (by Mr. Chambers) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “control and audit “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “and control “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 76 and 77 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
New clause 75a.
Motion ( by Mr. Chambers) agreed to -
That, after clause 75, the following new clause be inserted: - “75a. The accounts for the Territory shall be subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth.”.
First. Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Schedules agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Re-broadcast of Proceedings.
– Earlier to-day, in reply to a question asked by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I said that under the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act the re-broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament is restricted to questions and answers. The position is that the re-broadcast is restricted to questions and answers by the general principles for the conduct of the broadcast which were adopted by the Parliament on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the18th February (vide page 514), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is entitled the Shipping Bill 1949, and on the 18th February last, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) explained its provisions to the House. He put it before us, I thought, as a comparatively noncontentious measure. It has two outstanding features. The first is that it contains a series of provisions which, we are told, will foster the shipping industry in Australia by setting up an Australian Shipping Board, and authorizing that authority to conduct an Australian government shipping line and operate the services of that line interstate, presumably within the interstate authority of the Commonwealth Parliament. That is the first avowed purpose of the bill. The second is to foster shipbuilding in Australia by means which are set out in the legislation. Those means are rather unusual, I must say, and I propose to discuss them in some detail a little later. But broadly speaking, the idea is to foster shipbuilding by forcing all new construction of ships for the Australian coastal trade into Australian shipbuilding yards. It was most remarkable, and every honorable member would have noticed it, that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, expressly disavowed any intention to nationalize shipping. Time after time, he told us that he hoped that nobody would come to the conclusion that this was a proposal to nationalize the shipping industry. On the contrary, he said, the whole idea was to encourage competition in the shipping industry. That approach, so mild and insinuating, struck me, as I am sure it struck other honorable gentlemen, as meriting comparison with the last time the Government approached this Parliament with a nationalization scheme. But before I turn to that subject, may I remind the House, because we ought to have this tribute to the competitive system quite clearly in our minds, that the Minister said m his secondreading speech -
It mav be expected also that the presence of Commonwealth vessels on the coast will provide the stimulus of competition with the private companies and will have the effect of evoking an improved service, and of preventing freights from rising to an unduly high level.
As he warmed up t’o this novel theme, for him, he said -
The competition of a government line in the overseas trade will have beneficial results in keeping down freight charges, both on exports of Australia’s primary products and on the import of goods from overseas.
The honorable gentleman also stated -
The establishment of the Commonwealth line, therefore, will contribute towards strengthening the defence potential of the Commonwealth; it will provide the stimulus of competition in the coastal trades with a consequent effect on freights; it will enable services to be provided for areas not hitherto adequately served: and at a later stage will provide Australian ships for overseas trade to the benefit if Australian importers and exporters. [ pause there to point out to honorable members that here is, indeed, the most eloquent testimony to the competitive idea. My mind ran back to- the last time that we had the advantage of hearing the honorable gentleman speak on a similar topic when he dealt with the Australian National Airlines Bill, which the Parliament passed at the instance of this Government as recently as 1945. That legislation .provided for the setting up of the organization that is now known as Trans-Australia Airlines. The bill dealt with an important instrument of interstate trade and commerce, and interstate transport in the air, just as the Shipping Bill now before us deals with interstate transport by water. The Australian National Airlines Bill was designed to establish a government monopoly in interstate air travel and not a competitive system. There was to be no stimulus of competition under that proposal. Air travel was to be a government monopoly. According to the Government, the last thing that we should have was competition. What was required was a monopoly. The fact that the legislation operates to-day to provide, not for a monopoly, but for a competitive system, with competition between the government airline and private airlines, is not the fault of the Government or of the legislation that it introduced into this Parliament. The limitation on the operation of that act was brought about, not by any decision of the Government or any alteration of the act of Parliament, but by a decision of the High Court of Australia. But for that decision, we should have, at this moment, a monopoly interstate transport system in the air set up by the Government on the plea that the last thing that we must have in these matters is competition, and what we must have is a monopoly under public control. In an inquiring frame of mind, I read the debate that took place on the Australian National Airlines Bill. I found it quite interesting to compare some of the speeches on that bill with the eulogium that I read a few moments ago about the stimulus of competition. Speaking on the Australian National Airlines Bill, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) said -
If the bill now before the House is examined without unreasoning hostility, it will be seen as a measure comparable with those which gave- Australian governments control of the postal services and the railways. Do honorable members opposite - do any thinking Australians - honestly believe that there is any basic difference between these essential services and the operation of national air lines?
This is a completely different kind of case, is it not? In 1945 the Government considered that it could talk strongly about, eliminating competition and nationalizing industry. One rather suspects that events last year in connexion withbank nationalization have caused, not a change of heart on the pa-rt of Ministers, but a- change of technique in approaching this House and the people. The Minister, for Defence,- who, I remind honorable members, introduced the Shipping Bill, made the following statement when speaking on the Australian National Airlines Bill:-
The honorable member for Gippsland wants water supply schemes nationalized, but, when it comes to the airlines utility, equally important in the development of Australia, he, for some reason beyond my comprehension, is opposed to its being nationalized.
At that time, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) was dwelling in the belief that a competitive system was a good one. Now, at long last, he lias the satisfaction of knowing that the Minister has lined up with him. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) who, if he will allow me to say so, is one of the bright and rising stars on the Government side of the House, got right to the point. He made the following statement in his contribution to the debate on the Australian National Airlines Bill: -
I have endeavoured to show that dangers will arise from free enterprise and competition in this industry. It must be realized that the fierce competition of recent years has not inly been in direct opposition to a stable and balanced economy, but also has proved extremely wasteful.
But, on this occasion, the Government says, in effect, “Ah, yes, it is quite all right. There is no nationalization about this proposal. You may be easy on that point. You may rest in your beds. We have now come to believe that competition is the essence of trade, and we do not propose to nationalize the interstate shipping industry “. I can quote other interesting extracts from speeches by honorable members opposite on the Australian National Airlines Bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made such a short speech that I had no difficulty in finding the following passage: - f repeat that air transport is a public utility that ought to be controlled by the nation. This bill is limited to the acquisition of interstate airlines. I know that its constitutionality is challenged. Time -will decide whether the bill is constitutional or not. We believe it is. Had it been constitutionally possible to legislate_ for the taking over of the intra-state airlines, such legislation would have been brought down.
I referred to that little piece of history for obvious reasons, because I was struck, as I am sure that other honorable members were struck, by the fact that, on this occasion, there was such a mild approach to the shipping problem. Competition was extolled, and all hint of a monopoly in government hands was dropped into the background. That, no doubt, is due to the chastening effect of some of the experiences that Ministers have had of public opinion during the last twelve months, but a much more probable explanation of this, remarkable change of front is that the Government has decided that, on this occasion, subtle methods are to be used for nationalization. The Government does not propose to introduce nationalization by one blow and the sudden setting up of a government monopoly, but by a process of attrition, and by eliminating the competitor. This subtle approach is subtly explained in the Minister’s disarming second-reading speech, so that, in the result, the interstate shipping trade may be nationalized by indirect means. Nobody on thi? side of the House is unaware that, at the present time, interstate shipping embraces a number of units, which are not, in the existing circumstances, capable of being used economically. They are not suited to the coastal trade. If they are operated, they incur a loss. A number of ships of that kind are at present in the control of the Government. Through the Australian Shipping Board, the Government has had a large measure of control over interstate shipping and freights during and since the war years. Therefore, a prima facie case exists for some government action in relation to ships of that kind. But simple people would have thought that, if that were so, it would be far better to charter such ships and subsidize them, if they are not economic units, in the hands of experienced shippers instead of going through all the form of establishing a new government enterprise without experience in the direct management of ships. Those simple people would have expected the Government to say to such an enterprise,. “ Go ahead and conduct a shipping line. We have had experience before, but in spite of that experience, we shall have another experiment in the same way “. I do not know, and I have not been able to discover anybody who can explain to me why all the ships now owned or held under charter by the Commonwealth as the result of war-time circumstances cannot be either placed with commercial firms, acting as the managing agents if the Government desires to retain the ownership, or disposed of in some way so that they may, in a real sense, form a part of the ordinary commercial fleets that serve the coast of Australia. That would be much cheaper, and the overhead would be much less. Of course, this Government never worries about that kind of problem. Commercial firms also have more experience of managing commercial fleets than a government instrumentality has.
I shall not occupy the time of the House by rehearsing academic arguments about socialism. The problem of nationalizing an industry - I gathered on a former occasion that there is a subtle distinction between those two processes of socializing and nationalizing - does not need to be discussed in the air or debated at large. The people of thi3 country have had an enormous amount of bitter experience of it. Every socialist experiment in Australia during the last 20 or 30 years has entailed wasteful and unnecessary competition for man-power, for building materials, which are so scarce at the present time, for plant, for office accommodation and for all those things for which the normal activities of this country are crying out. In spite of that, time after time, socialist governments have tried new socialist experiments. When a new hoard is created, it must have a building, staff and equipment. If it is an enterprise of the kind I am now considering, it must have plant. The result is that the people who are crying out for those facilities must go without them. All that a socialistic enterprise produces, as a rule, is an abnormal deficit at the end of the year’s trading. It is well to recall - it is a pity that the Minister for Defence did not recall it in his second-reading speech - that private enterprise, which is anathema to honorable members opposite, coped quite adequately with the demands of the Australian coastal trade before the war, and did it at freight rates which, let me remind the House, were much .better than competitive with the railways. I have never believed that the shipping companies are impeccable. It is not necessary to believe that to be able to say, with some measure of fairness, that before the war they coped with the requirements of the trade to the satisfaction of the Australian people. During the war many ships were diverted to other purposes, and, inevitably, a great amount of dislocation occurred. Ships were brought into the service which were not ordinarily suited to the trade.
I want to say on this occasion, as 1 said on another, that the Government has no mandate for this legislation. More, important than that, the people upon whom this bill is being forced will obtain no benefit from it and no comfort from their past experience. Once more it becomes necessary to say that the people with a vital interest in any great form of transport are the people who use it and into who.se daily living costs there pass the expenses of that form of transport. It is the ordinary people of Australia who have a vital interest in this matter, and not only a few shareholders or directors. Let us take, for example, the people of Tasmania and Western Australia. They are dependent to an overwhelming extent upon sea transport for taking their goods out and bringing their supplies in. But for sea transport they would be isolated from the rest of the Australian community. Those people have a vital interest in this matter. Their vital interest is to have, first, an efficient and effective service; and secondly, a service at the lowest cost that is consistent with efficiency and fair treatment. If a government wastes one or two million pounds on a shipping line, who carries the burden? Everybody in Australia has now come to realize that it is the Australian people who bear such losses. If. a government shipping line increases freight rates, as it is likely to do, so as to bring in more revenue to avert its losses, who will carry the burden of the increased rates ? Those are the real tests of a proposal to nationalize an industry or, as in this instance, to acquire a monopoly control of an industry by indirect means over a term of years.
There are colleagues of mine on this side of the House who will deal with certain matters of great importance.
Some of them will deal with the history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and there is no need for me to say what they will say.
– Who sold that line ?
– I believe that the Bruce Government sold it. I have always thought that that was one of the many, many wise things that the Bruce Government did. I am not going to occupy my time or the time of the House by dealing with that matter. Pacts and figures which are beyond dispute will be produced in connexion with it. I am not going to occupy my own time by putting before the House figures relating to the almost unbroken record of failure and loss of previous government trading ventures in Australia. Honorable members opposite who represent Queensland electorates will be familiar with the history of some such ventures. We have heard a great deal in the course of our lives about the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and about State trading ventures. I was greatly struck in Great Britain by the singular story of coal nationalization there. That is the most modern example of nationalization that we have. The Government of Great Britain is proposing to nationalize the iron and steel industry. It is admitted that that industry, having been set a production target 100 per cent, above theprewar figure, has achieved it, and it has done so under private enterprise. Although it is the one great industry that has reached its target, the British Government proposes to nationalize it. I had the great pleasure of listening to part of the debate on this subject in the House of Commons. Whereas the steel industry in Great Britain was producing 5,250,000 tons of steel in 1932. it is now, on last year’s figures, producing 15,500,000 tons a year, or three times the production of sixteen years before. It has been shown that the existing capacity of the industry is not 15,500.000 tons but 1S,000,00’0 tons. It is admitted in Great Britain by Ministers and others that the one factor which is preventing the steel industry, the most vital industry in Great Britain, from reaching an annual produc er- of 18.000,000 tons of steel is an in sufficiency of coking coal. Coal is the bottleneck, and coal is nationalized. The British steel industry, under private control, has reached its production target. It is ready, willing and anxious to exceed that target by 2,500,000 tons, but it is unable to do so because, as the British National Coal Board agrees, no more coking coal can be supplied to it. That is not to be wondered at. I noticed in a report of the National Coal Board, which presides over the nationalized coal industry in Great Britain, that although wages, very properly, have risen a great deal and the price of coal had increased from a prewar average of 17s. 6d. a ton to 44s. a ton in October of 194S, the output of coal has fallen from 227,000,000 tons in the year before the war to 187,000,000 tons in 1D47, which was the last complete year for which figures were available when I was there. There has been a fall in the output of coal of 40,000,000 tons, or several times the entire coal productions of Australia in any one year. We have always been told by ardent socialists here and abroad that one of the great advantages of nationalizing an industry is that the people in it will be more willing to work, that they will say, “ Now that we are our own masters you will find that we will be on that job. It was a different matter when we were working for a soulless boss”. In Great Britain absenteeism in the coal-mining industry has increased from 6.44 per cent, to 12.43 per cent. It has doubled.
Another fact struck me in Great Britain which will not surprise honorable members on this side of the House. The British National Coal Board got to work and, of course, employed a large administrative staff. Whatever else a socialized government department produces, it certainly can produce staff. In 1947 the board had an administrative staff of 35,000, or 5,000 more than it had the year before. No more coal was produced, there was more absenteeism, the price of coal increased - and 5,000 more administrators were needed to produce those results. That does not shock honorable gentlemen opposite, because they take pride in the fact that they live in a country in which one-quarter of the total number of employed persons are government employees. 1 mention these matters because I want to rebut the suggestion which is so commonly made that in a nationalized industry work will be better because the men will be more cheerful, more willing to attend to the job and more willing to put forward a great productive effort. If that were true, it would be immensely important in an industry like the interstate shipping industry, in which the two principal trade unions are Communistcontrolled. The Government has not raised a finger to deal with any Communist trouble during the last five years.
As I hare said, the paramount interest in this matter is the interest of the people - the people who use the ships, the people who depend upon them for the transport of the goods that they use in their everyday life and who are, therefore, vitally affected by the charges which are made by the industry. How are we to keep prices down if it is not by keeping costs down? That does not mean keeping wages down. It does not mean any of the rather foolish and extravagant things that are occasionally said by honorable members opposite. It means maintaining a high level of efficiency and productive effort. That will always control costs, just as keeping down overhead expenses and eliminating waste will do it. We cannot keep transport costs down by encouraging either a government monopoly which loses money with glorious indifference or a kind of government competition which will force up the costs of existing coastal shipping companies by a steady process of forcing them out of business so that their turnovers shrink and their capacity for carrying goods at a reasonable cost steadily diminishes.
The other day the honorable member for .Fawkner (Mr. Holt) put a very interesting question on the notice-paper. What the honorable gentleman had in mind, as appeared from the question, was that during and since the war we have had whatever benefit may be thought to flow from governmental control of shipping. A great many ships have been owned and chartered by the Government. What has happened to freight rates? That is what “ John Citizen “ is interested in. I propose to select three items from the answer to the question, because they each involve a significant date. On the 2nd October, 1939, the freight rate from Sydney to Melbourne was 26s. 4d. a ton. On the 1st May, 1941 - and I have selected that date because it is near a date that I have in my mind - it was 26s. lid. a ton. On the 5th November, 1948, instead of being 26s. lid. a ton, the rate was 67s. a ton. Another freight rate dealt with in the answer was that from Sydney to Fremantle. Western Australia has a tremendous interest in this interstate shipping problem. On the 2nd October, 1939, the shipping freight rate from Sydney to Fremantle was 51s. 7d. a ton; on the 1st May, 1941, it was 50s. 6d. a ton; and on the 5th November, 1948, it was 88s. a ton. Those figures were provided by the Government in an answer to a question that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked some days ago. The people of all States of Australia have a vital interest in this matter, because 90 per cent, of all the goods carried interstate go by water. It is worth emphasizing that the bulk of the vast quantities of commodities that reach the ordinary consumers in the different States do not go by rail. Western Australia and Tasmania have a special interest in reasonably cheap sea transport because they are entirely isolated without sea transport of goods. Even if the Government had not made the answers that I have quoted - and I admit that the figures given are remarkable - it would still have been possible to refer to the last annual report of the Tariff Board, which was for the year 1947 - since when the position has, no doubt, deteriorated further - in which it was stated that the cost of freight to and from Tasmania had by then increased by 100 per cent, above the pre-war level. That happened under government control and in the circumstances so carefully described by the Minister in his secondreading speech.
I turn now to the proposal for fostering shipbuilding. Let it be said at once, if it requires saying, that the Opposition believes in having a shipbuilding industry in Australia. My colleagues who were -with me in the Government at the outbreak of World War II. were closely associated not only with an extensive programme of naval construction but also with the genesis of a programme for the construction of merchant vessels, the first of which was laid down during our period of office. We believe in having a shipbuilding industry, but we do not believe that it is possible to dispose of the problem of fostering one by adopting the proposals of this Government, or for the shipowners willingly to accept those proposals. The Government’s present proposals are so extraordinary as to be almost fantastic. The Government says, in effect, “We have invented a new rule, a compulsory rule “. That rule will not just encourage the shipbuilding industry, but will compel shipping companies to place orders with the local shipbuilding industry. That compulsory rule is worked out in the most apparently simple terms. Clause 30 of this bill may be summarized in this way: “No ship is to engage in interstate trade except under licence from the Minister. That licence will be operative for four years. No licence is to be given, as a matter of right, for a ship 24 years old. No licence is to be given, as a matter of right, for a ship not built in an Australian yard “. A deadline is to be adopted that will mean that a ship has reached the end of its useful life at the age of 24 years. It all seems to be so beautifully simple. The Government says to the shipowners, “ You shall not carry on the business of interstate shipping unless you have a licence for your ships, and you will not receive a licence for a ship unless it has been built in an Australian yard or is less than 24 years old “. The Minister explained, in almost kindergarten terms, that this provision will mean that when a ship reaches the age of 24 years it will be sold and a new one will have to be built to take its place. So, at last, we have reached the goal of perpetual motion in the shipbuilding industry. That industry will be like the job of the men who paint Sydney Harbour Bridge - when they finish at one end it is time to start all over again at the other.
– That work keeps the bridge in good order.
– Yes, but that was because the bridge was well built and, if I remember correctly, it was built by a very eminent private firm.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– I shall not spend time in discussion with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) because I know that in a week’s time he will contradict whatever he says tonight. There are exceptions to these simple rules to which I have referred. One of them is that shipowners, in the initial stages of the act, will be able to obtain a licence for a ship that was not built in Australia, provided that the ship was engaged in interstate trade prior to the commencement of the act. That is inevitable, because it would be impossible for all the ships that had not been built here to be tossed out of business. The second exception is that ships will be permitted to operate on our coast under the terms of the Navigation Act. The effect of that provision on private shipping companies that will, of course, stand behind the Government in the shipbuilding queue, can well be imagined. Most companies will inevitably be denuded of ships at the selling end, because ships that are 24 years old must be disposed of. Having to get rid of their ships at the appropriate dates, and being unable to get new ships except by the benign permission of the Government, the companies can be put out of business quite easily, without compensation or acquisition on just terms. By the provisions in this bill the Government will, at least, be saved one argument in the High Court of Australia. There will be no argument about acquisition on just terms, because under the bill that point will never arise.
– The privately owned shipping companies will be asphyxiated by this measure.
– These provisions will, with a vengeance, sweep the companies out of business. The development of shipbuilding does not require those devastating procedures. Any government that desires to foster shipbuilding activity has adequate powers to do so by subsidies or bounties. A government has unlimited power, and would have unlimited goodwill to foster the industry by those means. The present scheme is fantastic. Let us examine it closely. All future vessels chat come into use must be built here. That is to say, there is to be an embargo on the importation of ships. I hate to remind the Minister of any of those old unhappy far off things that may have been forgotten by him, but he will recall some heated debates in this House in connexion with the Geneva and Havana trade agreements. He will recall that great battles were fought by honorable members on this side of the House for the principle of British preferential trade, and that those honorable members were told that they were living in a dead world, that the new international order was expressed in the new agreements, and that preference was to be eliminated, tariffs were to be lowered, and trade was to flow more and more freely between the nations. The first fruits of the Geneva and Havana trade agreements are apparently to be found in this bill, that, far from reducing preference or easing trade barriers, places a complete embargo on the importation of ships into Australian waters. I think that the Minister felt, in the course of his speech, that this proposal presented some difficulty. So he explained to the House that, of course, it might have been possible to achieve the same result by means of tariffs, but that tariffs would add to the cost of all ships imported into Australia, and, in any event, there was no great harm about an embargo because it did not do any more than a tariff would which shut out competitors, anyhow. Therefore, he implied, why not shut out these competitors by an embargo? That is a beautifully simple approach. I do not know why we have a Customs Act and elaborate customs schedules when all that is necessary is to impose an embargo. Manufacturers in this country who operate behind a protective tariff, have to compete with imports subject to the limits of the customs duties that have been advised upon by the Tariff Board after the most careful investigation. The Tariff Board considers the cost of production. It takes the view that it will not raise a customs barrier merely to enable Australian manufacturers to snap their fingers at the rest of the world.
– Tariffs are decided upon in open Parliament.
– That is so. They are decided upon after full discussion. We do noi; say to any industry in Australia that its costs are irrelevant. We say that its costs are material and thai if it allows its costs to get to a point where the industry becomes inefficient and unprofitable it will have to face competition from similar industries overseas. We should not say to any industry, shipbuilding or otherwise, that from now on its costs are irrelevant and that the sky is the limit. If we did, prices inevitably would soar and the public, which has the really vital interest in this matter, would suffer, because it would have to pay the increased costs. There is another disturbing aspect of the scheme. I refer to the condition that vessels must not trade after they are 24 years old. When they reach that age they must presumably be either scrapped or sold. That artificial guillotine rule will mean that ships will be sold on a buyer’s market. The sales will, in effect, be compulsory sales. What consequences will that provision have on the asset structure of shipping undertakings ‘< How are shipping companies to guard against the inevitable losses that they will incur through those compulsory sales, except by raising their freight charges to the public? In spite of its astonishing simplicity this proposal of the Government’s is a very ingenious means of producing perpetual motion in the shipbuilding industry, but I warn the Government that it will produce that, perpetual motion only by producing perpetual losses.
Clause 33 of the bill empowers the Minister to purchase and sell ships. In bis second-reading speech, the Minister told us that ships would be built to the specifications of the purchaser, the costs of construction, had the ship been built in Great Britain, would be worked out - I presume by Einstein - and the difference would be regarded as a charge on the Government. In other words, the ship would be sold to the shipping company at British parity cost and the Government would provide the difference between that cost and the Australian cost of building it, so long as the difference was not more than 25 per cent. I have examined this bill, with great, though not with loving, care, and I cannot find anything in it about “ 25 per cent.”. All I can find in the bill in this respect is in clause 33, which states -
The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, purchase ships and dispose of ships so purchased to the Board or to any other person.
That is all ! Nothing about 25 per cent. ! Nothing to say that the Parliament shall ever be told what the difference may be! Nothing about an examination of those factors ! The only authority for the statement that has been made to us is the statement of a ministerial intention, without any statutory authority or backing. Suppose that the 25 per cent. subsidy turns out to be insufficient. Suppose, in point of fact, that an Australian shipbuilding industry, is trying to cope with this enormous volume of business, in five or six scattered centres, with none of those ancillary industries scattered around them that one finds around British shipyards. Suppose that the cost in relation to any ship is 30 per cent. more. What is to be done? Is the subsidy to go up to 30 per cent., or is the Government to say to the shipping companies,. “ It is a pity about you, but you must carry the difference or ask your customers to carry it, because our limit is 25 per cent.” Either the 25 per cent., difference must be carried by the Treasury or shipping freights must increase, thereby adding to the costs to be borne by the ordinary users or consumers.
The next observation that I desire to make may be naive, but I make it for what it is worth. I ask how the cost of a ship actually built in Australia to an Australian specification and according to Australian rules of accommodation, which are so different from those abroad, is to be compared with that of a purely theoretical ship that is not built in a British yard and cannot be, because we will not allow it to be. A ghost-ship ! Who is going to work out these sums? I do not know what size staff will be maintained in Great Britain constantly to take out quantities and constantly to prepare plans and specifications of ships that will never sail. I do not understand it. I hope that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). who is famed in the art of accountancy, will he able, when he rises to speak, to throw a little light on it, but at the moment, the whole scheme is so highly speculative as to create the suspicion that it will be quite unworkable. But to put all of that on one side and to presume that, in a homely phrase, all is as good as gold, it is still true that the Minister is to buy a ship and to sell it. He is to sell it to the Australian Shipping Board or to a person of course, the board running the Commonwealth shipping line will be, there saying, “We want to expand our fleet; we want ships”. The shipping companies will come along and say “ We need to replenish our fleets and we want ships to be built for us “. The answer will be given with crocodile tears : “ We should love to do it for you, but we must give first preference, naturally,to our own “. The result will be that a socialist Minister will be able to confine the sale of ships to the Australian Shipping Board and to say to the shipping companies that they can whistle for ships. What should be never forgotten is that there is nothing to prevent that from being done. It will rest on the sole, uncontrolled discretion of the Minister of the day. Yet this proposal is put before us as one which will foster the Australian shipbuilding industry and, presumably, make it so much more efficient that ordinary citizens of Australia will get its services at a reasonable cost. So we must have a scheme under which a socialist Minister may enforce the complete 24 years rule, give preference to the Australian Shipping Board in the construction of new ships and so ultimately drive the private fleets off the water and create, by that simple process, an utter monopoly of interstate shipping in the hands of the Government, leaving the public without the blessed advantages of competition about which the Minister spoke so lyrically last week. Without competition, without, if I may use his words, the stimulus of competition, we shall have once more the dead hand of an all-pervading government department. That is nationalization if anything could be. But it goes beyond nationalization as we understand it, and may again understand it in the case of the banks; for it includes not only nationalization but also confiscation of the assets of those already engaged in the shipping business. So this legislation, which deals with something not so easily understood as some people would think, is worse than the Banking Act, because it means that the businesses of the great shipping companies, which for years have existed here, are to be acquired, not on just terms, but by the process of elimination.
I intend, to make three more points; then I shall be done. The first is that it is open to very great doubt - and I should like to hear something from the Government on this before the debate closes - whether the building of ships at a number of small yards, hundreds of, miles apart, can ever be economic. Shipbuilding, as in Great Britain as present, is essentially an assembling industry. Ships are not entirely built on the spot.. The shipbuilding industry is dependent upon a great concentration of skill and. specialized manufactures of a hundred and one different kinds. Such an industry cannot be forced into existence, except on foolishly ruinous terms. We should be showing far more sense if we developed the industry steadily, as our supplies of man-power and skill increased, by more rational and less unreal means. The second point is that no one in his right mind will suppose that those who carry on the shipping enterprises, the shareholders and the people behind them, are going to lay out the capital needed for the constant modernization of their fleets or the improvement of their plant and equipment if a competitor, a government line underwritten by the taxpayer, with an unlimited right to make losses, which are guaranteed under clause 15, is given monopoly rights over the very provision of the ships that must be used and over all the circumstances affecting their costs. It does not make sense ! Of course, capital will not be laid out under those terms. The shipping companies are much more likely to allow their ships to fall into disrepair and obsolescence than they are to be encouraged to go on with their job.
I come to my final observation. I am sure Australians of all parties know that the recovery of Great Britain is vital to Australia. This country of ours is watching with warm sympathy the struggle of the people of Great Britain to rectify their present alarming trade balance. They are rectifying it by most herculean efforts. It is worth remembering that if every nation in the world followed the “ exclusive “ principle in shipbuilding and shipping that is enshrined in this piece of legislation it would be a very black day for the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, as I saw it last year, one of the bright and encouraging things, was to know that a nation that had been the greatest: sea. power in the world, whose living standards and, therefore whose capacity to buy our products largely depended on its exports of iron and steel products and upon the sea and shipbuilding, was in its shipyards building 55 per cent. of all the ships under construction in the world. One of the major hopes of Great Britain, our great friend, our great father and brother, and a great customer of ours, lies in its shipyards and ocean trade. Yet, along comes the Australian Government saying, “ Let us adopt a new principle of complete exclusion.. We will give a monopoly to ourselves of making all the ships for use in. our waters and later extend it, if we can,, to cover overseas trade “. If every nation followed that example the sea trade of Great Britain would be destroyed. It would fall to a fraction of what it is and the result of that on the economy of Australia and the lives of ordinary men and women of Australia would be disastrous.
– There would be no Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited on that argument.
– I knew that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would ultimately catch up with what I said half an hour ago. Then I explained, in terms thatI thought would have enabled him to understand, that the tariff in Australia gave no monopoly because it has always been based on efficient costs. If it was not, I should have expected the Labour party, in the eight years in which it has been in office, to have taken steps to alter it. Let the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture not. whine: and whimper and bring in
Yarra-Bank stuff about the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It exists in this country on terms of which the Government, including the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has approved ever since it came into existence. I am not discussing the tariff. The tariff is a good thing. I have always stood for it, because I believe that it protects us against unreasonable competition and helps us to develop industry in this country and that it takes care that we do not do it on an extravagant footing. The embargo, for which the Minister stands, has a different principle. This embargo, carried out by us and other people, can well turn out to be the most foolish and destructive thing that the Government has done in the course of a very foolish sud destructive life.
– G. K. Chesterton once said that it was more desirable to speak foolishly of wise things than wisely of foolish things, and, if I am accused of having spoken foolishly of wise things, I shall be satisfied. This is a bill for an act relating to shipping. Its chief objectives are to establish a Commonwealth shipping line and a Commonwealth shipping board and to protect and stabilize the shipping industry of this country. Before proceeding to deal with the bill, I should like to offer some criticism of the case presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He said that to allow Australianbuilt ships to trade exclusively on the Australian coast was an innovation and unusual. To my mind, there is nothing unusual or original in the idea that ships built in a country should have exclusive rights to trade on the coast of that country. If my mind serves me correctly, it was in 190S that a similar act was passed by Congress of the United States of America. It was called the “White Act”. It gave exclusive rights to trade in the coastal waters of the United States of America to ships built in that country, as this Government proposes that ships built in Australian shipyards should have the exclusive rights to the Australian coastal trade. On the strength of that, the right honorable gentleman accused the Minister of introducing a novel theme into the debate, and he referred to the attempt of the Govern ment to nationalize the private airlines. I remind honorable members that an anti-Labour government, in 1928, sought the consent of the people in a referendum to assume exclusive control over air navigation in Australia. The right honorable gentleman blamed the Government for the recent increase from 70s. a ton to 80s. a ton in freight rates between Sydney and Fremantle. The fact is that control of interstate shipping was handed back to the owners some time ago, so that the increase from 70s. to 80s., or 12£ per cent., was made on the initiative of the shipping companies, and the Government had nothing to do with it. The right honorable gentleman also said that when the bill became law no new ships could be purchased by private shipping companies, and that this was an attempt to nationalize shipping by crushing the private companies out of existence. He made that statement despite the fact that the Minister who introduced the bill stated emphatically that the Government was not attempting to nationalize shipping, and thai the interests of private shipping companies were safeguarded. In order to show how little justification there is for the right honorable gentleman’s submission, I point out that quite recently two ships, Barrigun and Balaar, which have been completed only two years, were sold by the Australian Shipping Board for £400,000 each, the first to Mcllwraith McEachern Limited, and the second to Australian Steamships Proprietary Limited. I have been informed by men who worked on the ships that they are among the best trading on the Australian coast.
The Leader of the Opposition drew a gloomy picture of increasing shipbuilding costs, and blamed the Government for it. The fact is that shipbuilding costs in Australia are tending to reach stability to a much greater degree than is the case in Great Britain. This is confirmed by representatives of private companies. For instance, Mr. Thornton, a director of the Shaw Savill and Albion Company Limited, speaking in London a few months ago, said that the cost of shipbuilding in Great Britain was increasing at the rate of 1 per cent, a month.
The chairman of directors of the Cunard Company stated recently that a ship under construction for the company had already cost £190,000 more than the contract price, and it was expected to cost another £190,000 above that price before it was completed. ISo shipbuilder will now quote a firm price for ship construction. The best that can be obtained is a basic price. When there is a lag of two or three years in the completion of a ship, and when costs are rising at the rate of 1 per cent, a month, it can be understood why building is expensive. What Government, I ask, is responsible for that situation? Shipbuilding costs in Great Britain are three times higher to-day than they were in 1938. Perhaps members of the Opposition can tell us what factors have contributed to that increase.
The action of this Government in assisting the shipping industry is not without precedent. Many governments throughout the world have had to come to the assistance of the shipping^ industry. In fact, shipping lines which are not assisted in some way by governments tend to be crushed out of existence. Prom 1920 to 1937, the Congress of the United States of America appropriated 900,000,000 dollars for the assistance of American shipping. The Government of the United States of America also maintained -38 shipping services, the operation of which involved an annual loss of 0,000,000 dollars. In 1935, the Dutch Government began to subsidize shipping, and the Government of the United Kingdom has for some time been paying a subsidy to companies operating tramp steamers.
Honorable members opposite have condemned nationalized industries as inefficient, but nothing could have been worse than the condition of the Australian shipping industry at the outbreak of the last war. During the period from 1924 until 1940, no ship of more than 500 tons was built in Australia. In 1922, when shipyards in Australia were closing down, and skilled artisans were being dispersed, the government of the day refused to assist the industry by having a cruiser built here. Instead, the order was placed overseas. It is extraordinary that despite the hardships in the shipbuilding indus try resulting from the depression, certain individuals in this country insisted that the cruiser be built overseas instead of in one of our own shipbuilding yards, where artisans could be kept in employment and a nucleus of shipbuilders retained. The shipbuilding industry was allowed to go to seed. Men capable of building ships were compelled to walk the streets. The result was, of course, that upon the outbreak of war in 1939, instead of our having at least the nucleas of a skilled shipbuilding staff, we had to start from scratch. The delay thus caused impeded our war effort for years. As 1 have said, it is extraordinary that in an industrialized country such as Australia, no vessel of more than 500 tons was built between 1924 and 1940. Our achievements in shipbuilding since the early days of the war are a credit to those responsible for them. Of the six major shipbuilding yards now operating in thi? country, five are under private control. It would be idle to argue, therefore, thai private enterprise has not played some part in the development of the industry.
The Opposition’s approach to this measure, as revealed by the Leader of the Opposition, lacks concrete and constructive suggestions. It is true that the right honorable gentleman said that the Opposition favoured shipbuilding in this country, but he did not go beyond that. He also endorsed the action of a past anti-Labour government in selling the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Although the Leader of the Opposition has said that the interest of “John Citizen” in this matter was primarily one of pounds, shillings and pence, the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers undoubtedly conferred substantial benefits upon primary producers. That is not merely my statement ; it is contained in the report of the Public Accounts Committee tabled in this Parliament in 1927, over the signature of the late Senator Sir Walter Kingsmill. It is worthy of note, too that when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was established, ruling freight rates were reduced by 10s. a ton. That has been disputed many times during debates in this chamber, but my authority again is the Public Accounts Committee. Honorable members opposite persistently preach the virtues of private industry and the laisser faire policy, but I remind them that the White Star Line, which purchased the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, never paid its debt in full to the Australian Government. The company went into liquidation owing approximately £400,000 on the transaction, and that sum has never been paid. Literally, the vessels were given away.
In introducing this bill, I believe the Government has adopted the only possible course in the interests of the well-being and welfare of the people of this country. It is essential that we should have a shipbuilding industry capable of meeting whatever demands may be made upon it in a time of emergency. At the outbreak of World War II., Australia did not have a shipbuilding industry. Those members of this Parliament who were responsible for that state of affairs will, no doubt, oppose this measure. In their view, only profits are of importance. During their term of office on the treasury bench, orthodox economy was practised in this country year in and year out. One has only to read the reports of debates in this Parliament extending back over the past twenty years to find that orthodox finance has been the policy of the antiLabour forces. One would have imagined that they would have profited by the example of other nations, which, determined upon development, insisted on establishing an adequate shipbuilding industry. Those nations prospered. An outstanding example, as I have said, is the United States of America. Having once been caught without adequate shipping facilities in a time of war the people of the United States of America resolved that it would never happen again. They were prepared to expend millions of dollars subsidize shipping, realizing how necessary the industry was to the economy of the nation. It is foolish to talk of defence if our shipyards are idle. The defence of this country cannot be assured while artisans are walking the streets instead of being engaged in essential industries. The working men of this country can only make their fullest contribution to our defence if they are given the right kind of encouragement, and that is what this bill proposes to do.
I have before me a list of the vessels that have been constructed or are under construction by the Australian Shipbuilding Board since 1940. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall incorporate the list in Hansard.
Approved Constructional Programme as at 31st January, 1949.
Thirteen “A”class,9,000 displacement weight tonnage, cargo steamships.
Twelve “ B” class, 0,000 displacement weight tonnage, cargo vessels (four coal fired, two oil fired and six diesel ) .
Ten “D” class, 3,000 displacement weight tonnage, cargo vessels (including one cargo/ passenger ) .
Two “ D/A ” class, 3,000 displacement weight tonnage, cattle/cargo motor vessels.
Two Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. 3,000 displacement weight tonnage, cargo motor vessels.
Five “E” class, 700 displacement weight tonnage, cargo motor vessels.
Total 44 vessels.
This Government has gone a long way towards fulfilling the shipping needs that have been so apparent in this country for many years. The men who sail in ships are entitled to greater consideration than they have received in the past. It is generally conceded that since the Australian Shipbuilding Board commenced its operations there has been a marked improvement in the living quarters of seamen. In fact, Australian-built vessels are now recognized as among the best trading to our shores, with the result that seamen are most anxious to obtain employment on them. Australian-built ships have proved their worth in war, and have contributed something to the development of Australia. The claim of the Opposition that this measure will sound the death-knell of private shipping in this country is not borne out by the fact that only two months ago the Australian Shipbuilding Board sold to private companies in Australia two of the most modem and. best equipped vessels on our coast. Ali that the bill intends to do is to ensure that Australia shall never again be placed in the position in which it found itself in 1939. By the establishment of a modern fleet, the Australian people will reap the benefit of participation in the coastal and overseas shipping trade. The measure will also contribute to the well-being of all those engaged in the shipping industry, and in addition, will result in developments which will have considerable defence value.
.- The aim of this bill is to give the Government power to establish a Commonwealth shipping line, to create the nucleus of an Australian mercantile marine, and, in the words of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), “ to foster the shipbuilding industry”. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) in criticizing certain figures which had been cited by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) relating to the increase of freight charges, said that since the Commonwealth had relinquished control of shipping and had handed the ships back to the private shipping companies freight rates had increased by 12^ per cent. He made no mention of the fact that while the Government controlled the ships freight rates increased by 40 per cent., nor did he tell the House and the people that the increase of 12-J per cent, to which he referred had been caused by the re moval of subsidies, the introduction of the 40-hour week, the slow turn-round of ships, and the innumerable stoppages that have occurred on the waterfront. He skilfully evaded those issues. The honorable member was misinformed when he stated that the report of the Public Accounts Committee signed by the late Senator Sir Walter Kingsmill proved that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers had been of great assistance to the primary producers and the private shipping companies. If be examines the relevant Parliamentary paper he will find that the statement to which he referred is embodied in a minority report signed by “ E. C. Riley, P. J. Moloney and C. S. McHugh “. I do not think that the honorable member deliberately tried to mislead the House about the report. I am sure that he was misinformed.
This bill has three main objectives, but they are so widely diverse that they cannot be adequately covered by one measure. The first objective is to empower the Government to establish the shipping and shipbuilding industries in Australia. The second is to empower the Government to operate ships in the Australian coastal trade and, later, if this grandiose scheme is as successful as the Government hopes, to engage in overseas trade. The third objective is to provide facilities for the training of men for the mercantile marine who, should the need arise, may be transferred to the Navy. Whilst I approve of some of the provisions of the bill, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it constitutes a subtle attempt to circumvent the provisions of the Constitution and is a first step to the bringing about of the nationalization of shipping and the shipbuilding industry, which is a plank in Labour’s platform. At a very early stage of his second-reading speech the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) indicated that the Government had no intention of bringing about the nationalization of the shipbuilding industry. When- introducing the bill in the Senate the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) said likewise. It is strange that both of these gentlemen, one of whom has openly declared himself to be a socialist,, should back-peddle and repudiate a plank of the platform of
Labour’s policy which they are pleged to support. All members of the Labour party who aspire to political honours are obliged to pledge their support for the platform of the party which includes the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It is only right that members of the Opposition should tell the people plainly that this proposal represents another step in the Government’s attempt to nationalize industry in this country, and to reduce the people to the position of mere chattels and servants of the State, an objective against which we fought for six years in one of the bloodiest wars the world has ever known. Do honorable members opposite believe that the people will willingly submit to such a proposal ? In introducing the measure the Minister stressed its importance to the Government’s defence plans. He said that Australia must establish the nucleus of a mercantile marine which would be available for transfer to the Navy should the necessity arise. That appeal constitutes rather a nasty way of trying to foist a proposal such as this on the people. Even if the capacity of the shipyards of Australia were increased five-fold they could still be very busily engaged in equipping the Royal Australian Navy, about which the honorable gentleman and others associated with the Government have had so much to say. No matter how honorable members opposite may attempt to disguise the purpose of this bill, it clearly represents the first steps along the road to the nationalization of shipping and the shipbuilding industry. Otherwise, why would responsible Ministersin both Houses of the Parliament have gone to such pains to assure the people that the Government had no intention to nationalize the shipbuilding industry? The honorable member for West Sydney said that owing to the instability of the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain no shipbuilding company there would give a firm quote for the building of a ship. He then went on to show how stable is the Australian shipbuilding industry. No shipbuilding company in Australia could possibly quote a firm price for the building of a ship in this country because of uncertainty about the industrial position, let alone the supply problems.
– It is not even possible to get a firm quote for the building of a house.
– That is so, and for many reasons builders cannot be blamed for that. In the early portion of his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
However, it is not any part of the Government’s plans to nationalize the shipping or the shipbuilding industries.
Is that an admission by the Minister that the Government has plans for the nationalization of those industries? It seems strange that the Minister should go to such pains to make a statement of that kind. This bill represents the deliberate commencement of a process of slow strangulation designed eventually to remove from Australian waters the private shipping lines. Under the licensing system proposed in the bill the Government may control all ships that operate in Australian waters. The Minister is to have discretionary power to withhold a licence in respect of any ship unless that ship has been built in Australia. Would any body in his senses regard that provision as anything but the first step towards the eventual strangulation of the private shipping companies? Will anybody accept the plea of the Government that that is not its ultimate objective? Clause 15 of the bill deals with the powers of the board. The clause provides -
The board shall have power -
to design ships and to advise the Minister as to the design of ships to be built in Australia.
Clause 29 reads - (1.) The Minister may, in his discretion, grant licences for the construction of ships to which this Part applies. (2.) A licence under thelast preceding subsection may be granted subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction, of the ship as the Minister determines. (3.) At the request of the licensee, the Min ister may revoke a licence under this section or may revoke or vary any condition, or add to the conditions, to which such a licence is subject. (4.) A person shall not, except under licence granted by the Minister under this section, and in accordance with any conditions
Ki which the licence is subject, commence or -continue the construction of a ship to which this Part applies.
If a shipping company applies to the board for permission to build a ship, the board will be empowered, under clause 15 of the measure, to decide the design of the vessel to be built. If the company does not like the board’s proposal and objects to it, the Minister may refuse to grant the company a licence. Sub-clause 4 of clause 29 reads as follows : -
A person shall not, except under a licence granted by the Minister under this section, and in accordance with any conditions to which the licence is subject, commence or continue the construction of a ship to which this Fart applies . . .
No matter what a shipping company may do to overcome the obstacles placed in its way by this measure, it cannot escape the power of the Minister. Sub-clause 3 of clause 30 provides substantially - disregarding its padding - that the Minister may grant a licence to a vessel to engage in trade between places in the Commonwealth if it be less than 24 years old at the date of application and was built in an Australian shipyard. A proviso is added that a vessel that is engaged in trade on the Australian coast which was not built in Australia may receive a licence for a limited period. The bill also authorizes the board to grant licences for a maximum period of only four years. Would any sane person undertake such an enterprise as operating ships under that condition? That provision of the bill is about as reasonable as the offer to a retailer, who desires to establish a business, of premises on a lease of only four years. As I have already pointed out, the hill is designed to bring about the nationalization of the Australian shipping industry by a process of slow strangulation. The Minister for Defence, who introduced the bill, endeavoured to gloss over that unpleasant fact. He said -
The board has some powers of an advisory nature in regard to shipping and shipbuilding matters generally, but apart from the?e, its functions relate solely to the operation of ships.
Does he think that people will swallow that sort of trash? When they place the report of his remarks side by side with the provisions of the bill, will they give any credence whatever to his assurance: The circumstances surrounding the introduction of this measure resemble very closely the atmosphere that was created prior to the introduction of the Banking Bill. As honorable members are aware the arch planners of the Australian Labour party decided, as far back as 1921. to nationalize the banking industry. When the Banking Bill 1945 was drafted, members of the Labour Government deliberately and with cunning design included in it a clause which later became notorious as “ section 48 “. When they did that they knew very well that the operation of that clause would challenge the rights of the private banks, that itsvalidity would be attacked in the High Court, and that the High Court would inevitably reject it. That was the atmosphere which they deliberately created to justify the introduction of the Banking Bill 1947. The inclusion in this measure of a provision limiting the currency of a licence to four years is part of a clever ruse to nationalize the shipbuilding and shipping industries of this country. If this measure is enacted the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will enjoy unlimited power to control shipping.
Let us analyse this grandiose scheme, which also provides for the building, of vessels in other countries. We must ask ourselves, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested, what happened to the shipbuilding industry of Great Britain after the recent war? Did the shipbuilders of that country need the stimulus of legislation such as that which we are now considering in order to make their industry thrive? Did they need legislation of this kind to enable them to build up their mercantile marine or their navy? Of course, they did not. As 1 have said so often, the function of government is to ensure that no individual section of private enterprise exploits other sections of the community; and the function of government is certainly not to produce white elephants - or red elephants, for that matter, as I am reminded. I should like to know exactly how it is proposed to implement this grandiose scheme. We all are aware that Australia requires almost unlimited quantities of coal and huge quantities of steel. What is the present position in regard to supplies of coal and steel in this country1? We cannot get anything like the quantity of coal that we require and, as a result, we are producing only very little steel. Timber will undoubtedly be required for the ‘construction of ‘the new ships. Of course, we might he able to go to some other countries for our needs. If a private shipping company applies to the board for permission to build a vessel and cannot obtain it, the Government apparently proposes that ships shall be purchased from Great Britain or some other country. I remind the Government, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, that “the shipbuilders of other countries are not going to alter their standard designs to comply with the requirements of the infant Australian government shipbuilding industry.
Apart altogether from the objectionable political characteristics of the Government’s proposal its implementation will involve _ Australia in serious practical difficulties. The Government would be doing a far greater service to shipping and the industries of this country if it contented itself with administering the statutes that have already been enacted. Why do we require more ships for the coastal trade ? One of the real causes of the apparent shortage of shipping in this country is the slow turn-round of the vessels in ports. Any vessel entering an Australian port to-day has to spend much longer in port than ‘is -necessary, and a bank of merchandise is being accumulated that the existing merchant fleet cannot move at its present rate of turn-round. Of course the Government is seeking to avail itself of that -as an excuse to justify the acquisition of more vessels. Et will not go to the root cause of the trouble.. Whilst I do not contend that we have sufficient ships in our coastal trade, it is obvious that if the Government enforced the law we might be able to improve the present unsatisfactory turnround of ships. However, instead of enforcing the law the present ‘Government ‘ permits the seamen and- the wharf labourers to do what they like. It allows Healy, who is a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, to dictate governmental policy concerning the waterfront. Healy recently engineered a stop- work meeting in “Brisbane, then calmly boarded an aircraft and new to Perth. He knew -that the dispute in Brisbane could. not be settled until he returned, and so he chose to rush .off to Perth. No doubt, he proceeded there in one of Trans- Australia Airline’s aircraft at the taxpayers’ expense. In Perth he engaged in further agitation .for an increase of the basic wage by 35s. a week. He was involved in a demonstration outside a theatre in Perth, and received quite a measure of publicity over the local Australian Broadcasting Commission news service. Healy is in the shipping .business. He was engaged by the Government - at What salary I do -not know - ‘but he will remain in his position for ‘life unless he commits a felony. He went to Perth, knowing perfectly well that he had left trouble behind him in Brisbane. I do not know whether the trouble in Brisbane has yet been settled. Healy addressed the Communists in Perth, and endeavoured to get them on the move. 1 do not know where he is to-day. He may be proceeding from Perth to Brisbane via Darwin. As I have stated, he is a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and, in that capacity, is responsible in part for administering certain laws of the Commonwealth. ‘The Government should shake itself up, StOP the practices of such men, .and ensure the smooth operation of the shipping industry and its subsidiaries. If the Government were to act with firmness, it would relieve to a great degree the difficulties that ‘beset us to-day. I turn now to another gentleman, Mr. Elliott, who is the secretary of .the Seamen’s Union of Australasia.
– Did the .honorable member describe Elliott as a gentleman ?
– It was only -a figure of speech.
– He said that Australians were “ mugs’” to go abroad and fight the enemy.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) must not interject.
– I know what Elliott said. When the so-called ‘” mugs “ were ;abroad fighting for Australia, he endeavoured to hold up ships in Australian ports that were to take supplies to them. He also said that many of our boys would never have returned to Australia, had it not been for his efforts. [ say, “ Thank God we got back without his efforts “. When this House was debating the second reading of the Stevedoring Industry Bill, which is called “Healy’s bill”, Elliott and his cohort, Healy, tied up 72 ships in Sydney Harbour. It is all very well for you people in the eastern States-
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I shall do so, sir, but I have looked at you for so long that I thought you were becoming embarrassed. When the 72 vessels were lying idle in Sydney Harbour, the wharfs were cluttered with cargo that was consigned to South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. At the same time, other ships could not enter the harbour to discharge South Australian and Western Australian wheat, which droughtstricken farmers in New South Wales required for their stock. In addition, merchandise from Sydnev factories was accumulating on the wharfs. The people of New South Wales, Victoria, Queens- « land and even South Australia are not seriously inconvenienced by a shipping hold-up, because 15-ton, 20-ton and 25-ton semi-trailers can be utilized to transport merchandise by road, but the people of Tasmania and Western Australia are unable to employ those facilities and in such circumstances must go without goods that they urgently require. Local-governing authorities in Western Australia contracted to purchase power graders in the eastern States at a cost of £3,700 each, but because of the shipping hold-up the delivery of the machines was delayed, and, in the meantime, the purchase price increased to £5,500. -Some local-governing authorities are still awaiting delivery of that plant. When such hold-ups occur, the taxpayer is the ultimate loser. Apparently the Government is powerless to prevent Mr. Healy and Mr. Elliott from causing hold-ups in the shipping industry. The results are most serious. In Western Australia last year, farmers could not obtain adequate sup plies of superphosphate for their crops. Consequently, we had the inglorious spectacle of ships arriving at Fremantle with phosphate rock as late as June, and road transport vehicles lined up on the dock to carry the rock to the works for conversion into superphosphate. Road transport vehicles also carried the superphosphate to the farmers, and the Government of Western Australia was obliged to subsidize them. I read in this afternoon’s press that Mr. Bird and an official of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union are stirring up trouble in Victoria. Instead of attempting to nationalize the shipping industry, the Government should take strong action to prevent unnecessary stoppages and hold-ups on the waterfront. In. that way, the Government would render a far greater service to the people who really count, such as primary producers and the workers whom honorable members opposite are supposed to represent in this Parliament. In expressing those - views, I am not making a plea for the shipping companies or the wealthy magnates in Pitt-street and Castlereaghstreet, Sydney, or Collins-street, Melbourne. I fear that as the result of thepassing of this legislation, the primary producers and the workers will be required to carry an additional financial burden.
– This bill will please Mr. Elliott.
– Of course it will. That is the reason why the Government, has introduced the legislation. Honorable members opposite will soon be engaged in battles to obtain pre-selection for the election this year, and they areendeavouring to gain support with thisbill. I wonder what the Minister for; Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who introduced this bill, will say to their supporters when they are endeavouringto explain their statement that the Government does not intend to nationalize the shipping industry. Of course, the nationalization of industry is one of theprincipal planks of the platform of theAustralian Labour party.
When this legislation comes into operation, a host of civil servants will be engaged on the Australian Shipping Board and the growth of bureaucracy will continue. From the outset, the overhead will be too much for such an organization to carry, and, as with other government enterprises, the taxpayer will be hit hard financially. Honorable members opposite will probably refer extensively in this debate to the success of such government enterprises as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Commonwealth and State-owned railways. Any government that disposed of the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is responsible for our system of communications, would be in difficulties in an emergency.
– The Postmaster-General’s Department cannot help making a profit.
– That is true. At various times, State trading has included hotels, brickworks and butchers’ shops, but most of them failed badly. No doubt honorable members opposite will refer extensively to the history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers between 1917 and 1927, and will claim that that organization made profits. I point out that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers certainly made profits during the period of World War I., but any shipping company that could not make profits at such a time should not have been in the business. While the Commonwealth owned these steamers, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was one of the ringleaders of a strike in New South Wales. He would not assist to transport to the wharfs supplies that Australian troops in France urgently required. At that period, our men were being cut to pieces by the “ Jerries “. About twelve months ago, the right honorable gentleman told honorable members that, had it not been for the action of the authorities in control at that time, he would never have become a member of the Parliament. He is still hitter about his experiences in those days.
Immediately after World War I. the profits of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers began to decline, and, ultimately, the organization was losing money at the rate of £500,000 a year. The Minister for Defence has stated that the ships which the line operated were old and dilapidated. That statement shows how little he knows about the subject. I think that he was in Mesopotamia at that time. In World
War II., Jervis Bay, while protecting a convoy, engaged a German warship long enough to enable the other vessels to escape. Was that evidence that Jervis Bay was old and dilapidated? The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers did not pay, although it made a profit of approximately £7,000,000 at the beginning of its brief existence. The line was sold for £1,900,000, of which there is an amount of £400,000 still to be collected if we can collect it. That is not to be considered alongside the provisions contained in this measure. That line was established in 1917 in the hope of getting materials, supplies, and produce from this country to countries overseas. We have to bear in mind, too, that the ships were purchased by reason of the fact that other countries were finding it difficult to trade with Australia. One of the reasons why that shipping line was not a success was because of the host of public servants that had to be employed to run it. They had a job and they did not care what happened to the line; they were not interested. By again entering into the shipping industry this Government is committing an atrocity on the people of this country that is, to say the least, unwarranted. It should concentrate on giving assistance to the people who are prepared to engage in industry. Let the Government play ball with those people instead of placing obstacles in their way. If the Government is so keen to foster the shipbuilding industry why does it not assist those who are prepared to engage in it by providing them with a subsidy? If it is prepared to assist the shipping companies to get ships to carry on the coastal trade why does it not apply the industrial laws of this country to stop industrial troubles? I am of the opinion - and I say plainly that I do not care who knows it - that this is a back-door method by this Government hopes to nationalize the shipping industry.
– Rubbish !
– Let the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) rise and say in this House that it is not the intention of the Government to nationalize the shipping industry.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini) . - Order ! The honorable member for Swan must address the Chair.
– With all due respect to the Chair, let the honorable member for Hume get on his feet and say that he is opposed to the nationalization of the shipbuilding industry. Of course he will not do that!
– We were told that the honorable member for Swan was in favour of the nationalization of the
-These interjections are disorderly.
– With all due respect I say that the honorable member for Hume is in favour of the nationalization of the shipbuilding industry, but he is not in favour of some of the other planks of the platform of the Australian Labour party. I say deliberately that this is a back-door method by which this Government hopes to nationalize the shipbuilding industry and get complete control of it. Once the Government is allowed to do that the people of this country will get a very rude shock indeed. We have seen in smaller things that neither this Government nor any other government can make a success of a business undertaking. If the Government is allowed to get away with this it will be a terrible thing for the people of Australia. I say further that the people will be made aware of the ulterior motive behind this measure, not from the speeches of Ministers and private members opposite, but from what is contained in the bill, and what the terms of the measure really mean. When they trace back the history of the members of this Government they will wake up and realize that this is neither more nor less than a deliberate, dirty, underhand way of effecting the nationalization of the shipping industry of this country.
.- One would have expected that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) would have adopted all of the attributes of a water-fowl, or would at least have taken to the water when discussing a waterside problem such as the building of ships. However, he contented himself with hanging his shirt on the mulberry bush of nationalization, without really touching upon the measure before the House. The reason is not far to seek, because I do not suppose that the Opposition faces a more difficult task than convincing the people of this nation that it is genuinein the views that it has expressed about this shipping measure. There are two things that I recommend the Opposition never to address the nation upon. One is its attitude to full employment, and the other is its attitude to the building up of the mercantile marine of this country. The Opposition stands convicted by the people on two major charges. One is that, by implications, its members are up to their elbows in responsibility for the causes of the depression and the second is that they were responsible for the selling of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. They should make no mistake about the feelings of people outside this House. Throughout the whole of this nation there is a feeling that there was a dereliction of duty on their part in the sale of that shipping line. Although I am not a seaman, and know very little about the mechanics of shipbuilding, I am an Australian citizen who has applied himself to the study of some of our problems, and.. in common with millions of other people, want an explanation from the Opposition, who formerly comprised the Government of this country, of the deed of treachery that they committed by selling such an. asset belonging to this nation at a big loss. It is all very well to grow lyrical, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did on this matter, and talk about ghost ships, but the ghost that is haunting the Opposition is the lost line of steamers which belonged to the people of this country. The honorable member for Swan switched off the subject and refused to sail his little boat on the turgid waters. He talked about side issues which have nothing to do with this measure, and asked whether we intend to nationalize shipping.
Whilst I am not a very intelligent person, I will not be so modest as to say that I am as unintelligent as the honorable members opposite. The whole impact of the Opposition on this measure seems to have resolved itself into an attack upon what it has termed “ this expensive and scandalously wasteful national enterprise “. The attack did not get to the base of this problem. The people of Australia are asking when the Australian Government will return to them the ships that were lost in the years gone by. The answer is contained in the bill before the House. It represents another effort by the Government to fulfil a promise that the Labour party has made to the people.. No matter how hysterical, or how hypercritical or hypocritical, the Opposition may feel, we consider that we are resting: on the sound fundamental basis of decency in doing what we promised to do, without qualification. Although the ranks of the Opposition have been derpleted because of its mistakes, it continues to make additional mistakes, such, as attacking this measure, which seeks to achieve three main purposes. These are the re-establishment of a Commonwealth Line of Steamers, the development of a mercantile marine, and the encouragement of a thriving shipbuilding industry, ft is surprising that even one voice should be raised against these concepts. Let us consider what has been said about the mercantile marine by the Leader of the Opposition. He referred to the fact that there had been adequate ships up to 1939 plying up and down the coast of Australia. But he was reminded by my colleague, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor), that no ships of over 500 tons had been built in our shipyards for many years and that it was only the war which forced us to establish the industry. The honorable member for West .Sydney also reminded us of the warning we received that this whole continent must be adequately equipped with an efficient mercantile marine, and must have ships and craftsmen to man them, if we were to survive. The Opposition talked about the ships that were limping along the coast in 1939. The Opposition did not realize how few ships we had. The late John Curtin did his utmost to lift the shipping of this country. In Great Britain, the shipbuilding art is legend. Owing to the sinking of its ships on the seven seas, Britain was demanding ships and more ships. The Curtin Government, which had only recently taken office, was asked to do what it could to supply them. Despite the bright picture that has been painted by the Leader of the Opposition, it was discovered that a former government dockyard, at Walsh Island, had been allowed to become overgrown with weeds and that the floating dock was in two sections. The place was in disorder. That was the result of the policy that had been followed by the Stevens Liberal or National Government of New South Wales. Its policy was, “ Away with enterprises of national importance. If they are controlled by the Government they are.no good to us”. There was a former government dockyard with the verdigris of the years upon it and with the rank grass growing round it, while the leader of democracy, Mr. Churchill, was sending to us his clarion call from Europe for ships, ships and more ships. It is apparent that honorable members opposite have learnt nothing from that experience, because they have criticized a bill which will enable us to commence work which should have been done long. ago. The- proposal for the establishment of an adequate mercantile marine should be above criticism. We must have it. The Leader of the Opposition talked of Britain and its miraculous recovery. That is an epic among the many epics which constitute the history of the British Empire and of the metropolitan dominion, of England itself, if I may so call it. Surely, having regard to the global strategy that would be required in any future war, no one will suggest that we should do nothing to solve our local problems in regard to shipping but should wait until Britain is able to sell ships to us. That is the policy of laisser-faire that has destroyed the anti-Labour parties. Their policy is, “ Let it rip “, They want to let the shipping situation rip, as they let the unemployment problem and the war effort rip. It is that dangerous policy which moves me to ex.press myself in this way. The Government does not deny that private organizations have helped us greatly with our shipbuilding problems. The Leader of the Opposition, however, dismissed that effort airily as something that was fundamentally unimportant. He said, in effect, “ Around our coasts there are two or three shipbuilding firms, but we need not consider them because they are just struggling Australian firms “. The right honorable gentleman did not use those words, but that is the inference to be drawn from his remarks. How different is the real situation. We have the Evans Deakin shipbuilding yard in Brisbane, the New South Wales State dockyard in Newcastle - its resuscitation by a Labour government is one of the unsung sagas of the war - Cockatoo Island dockyard and Mort’s Dock in Sydney, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla, as well as the establishments of Walkers Limited in Maryborough and the naval dockyard at Williamstown. We have the beginning of a fine shipbuilding industry. The splendid story of the rescusitation of shipping in this country has been told in another place by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley). The present output of Australian yards is between 25,000 and 30,000 gross tons a year. This output is limited by material and labour shortages, but with the easing of those shortages the figure could be raised by 5,500 or 10,000 gross tons. To. hear honorable members opposite talk, one would think that we are beginning on the ground floor and that we should start with the building or rowing boats, whereas on the seas there is evidence that we are able to build our own ships and to build them well. They are seaworthy and comfortable, and our men like to sail in them. I understand from the figures that have been made available to me that the total tonnage already under construction in all yards is approximately 80,000 gross tons. That is a considerable effort, yet it is flipped aside by members of the Opposition, who talk vapidly of nationalization and the things that this Government intends to do with the shipbuilding industry. The record of what the Government has done during the few years that it has held office is sufficient to make the Australian people, who are the only people in whom we are interested, confident that what was lost to them will be restored to them and that Australia will have a mercantile marine that will be adequate for peace or war and a thriving shipbuilding industry which will enable us to train artisans and to implement our policy of full employment. Linked with that will be tremendous undertakings such as the Snowy River scheme, which will send the “ white coal “ pouring into the hinterland and enable us to support a population of twice the size of our present population. We can see the beginnings of vast schemes which will intermingle and become the mosaic of national progress, but the Opposition can see nothing but nationalization, despair and some shipbuilding organizations losing their profits. That is an extraordinary attitude. Apart from the defence aspect, the services of a Commonwealth line of steamers, a mercantile marine and a shipbuilding industry are necessary to keep freight charges down to a reasonable level, to ensure uptodate and regular services and for other economic reasons. The Leader of the Opposition referred ex parte to a group of freight charges. He said, in effect, with his usual pontifical toss of the head, “ I hope that you dear old fellows over in Perth and even my friends that I care to remember in the Gulf of Carpentaria are listening to me. You are isolated. You are cut off. Probably you have never seen me” - what a tragedy! - “ I tell you that you have been imposed upon by high freight charges. In. 1939 the freight rate was so much, and to-day it is three times that figure”. What the right honorable gentleman forgot to do - and if he was honest he should have done it - was to compare present charges for freight from Europe with those which obtained in pre-war days and to tell of how the migrants who are coming to this country are being charged increased fares. Those charges are imposed not upon inanimate freight but upon human freight that is urgently needed in Australia. We have sent a call to our own flesh and blood to help us to develop this country, and those who respond are caught up in these increased charges. The right honorable gentleman tried by implication to suggest that any attempt by this Government to re-establish the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers would be futile. I do not think that honorable members opposite are very much concerned about building an adequate Australian mercantile marine, although they made vapid, futile and febrile attempts to do so before the war, because of the warning that they had been given that, they would have to do something about it. Then, despite the fact that they said that plenty of shipping was available, they began to get a rough organization together. Before it was functioning efficiently, the Government of which they were supporters was thrown out of office by an angry populace which wanted to get on with the winning of the war.
– It was thrown out by a couple of traitors.
– It was thrown out with the approbation of an angry populace. The fear of honorable gentlemen opposite is not that we shall establish a good coastal trade, train artisans or implement our policy of full employment.
Those are minor matters to them. They might regret them, but they are not engrossed with them. What must not occur, in their view, is the restoration of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, but I am proud to say that the re-establishment of that line is rapidly approaching realization. It is almost unbelievable that there should be so much data upon one item, that is, the losses that were incurred by the previous government shipping line and none at all about its supreme usefulness to the nation. The real loss suffered was the loss of the ships. That loss has impinged itself upon the national mind as a national tragedy. If one reads through the various relevant documents and reports of speeches, one finds that many men were involved in it. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Bruce-Page Government sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and congratulated it upon doing something that was, in his opinion, very sensible. In 1923, Mr. Bruce said -
The Commonwealth Government line is there. You can fight it. Wipe it off the sea if you are fit to do so.
He may have changed his tune later, but at any rate he said that then. He also went on to say -
I could talk at great length of the Commonwealth line, of its great activities in the past and of its glorious future.
I remind the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who with his colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), so valiantly represents the rump of the Australian Country party, that the late Mr. W. C.
Hill, who was a distinguished member of the same party, said in this House on the 10th July, 1923-
The platform of the Country party declares in favour of the extension of the Common wealth line–
Oh, for lost platforms ! -
The main reason why we have supported this line is because we believe that in days gone by we were exploited and probably will be exploited again by the shipping combine.
It is the desire of the primary producers to foster the line as they believe it operates in their interest, by keeping rates at a reasonable level.
That is good, plain, country horse-sense, and I wish that present members of the Australian Country party showed a little more of it instead of dissipating their strength in a struggle for political supremacy. They now cheer the Leader of the Opposition when he says that the shipping line was too expensive. As time went on, the enthusiasm of the Bruce party began to wane and, eventually, fell to zero. It appeared evident that the continuous pressure of the shipping combine for the disposal of the ships had succeeded. The Australian Country party, whose policy was not only in favour of the maintenance of the line, but also its expansion found it convenient to change that policy. However, the members of that party are adepts in that respect. The price was a “ sell-out “ of the people of Australia and the reward was the retention of office. Was there ever a paltrier “ horse trade “ in the history of this country? So, the Bruce-Page Government looked for a reason to sell the line. The Public Accounts Committee was asked to submit a report regarding the line. Sir Granville Ryrie was chairman of that committee which consisted of a majority of Liberal and Country party members and a few Labour members. To the discomfiture of the government of the day, the committee issued an interim report in which it said -
The evidence so far placed before the committee indicates that not only has the Commonwealth line been directly responsible for actual reductions in freights, but that the presence of the line has exerted a material restraining influence against proposed increases.
That report added -
The committee therefore recommends that in the interest of Australia the line be continued.
Thus, even among the anti-Labour parties of that day were to be found men of vision.
– Was that a minority report ?
– No; although the Labour members were in a hopeless minority on the committee, it was a majority report. The Bruce-Page Government, however, was determined to sell the line and decided to appoint ,Sir Granville Ryrie as High Commissioner for Australia in London. The late exSenator Kingsmill was then appointed chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and it brought in a report recommending that the line be sold. The reason given for the sale of the line was that it was showing a loss of £500,000 a year. Had the members of the government of that day cast their eyes to any one of the seven seas they would have learned that countries with far greater financial resources than Australia were paying much bigger subsidies in order to maintain their ships on the oceans. But the Commonwealth ships were never destined to sail again; there was a mark upon their brow - perhaps, I should say, upon their prow - and they were sold.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was always opposed to the continuance of the line, said in this House on the 10th November, 1927 -
I have always said that in Australia the Government line has had an infinitesimal effect on freight charges.
Yet, on the 10th July, 1923, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, said in this House -
Shortly after the line was established it was conveying wheat to London at f 7 10s. a ton at a time when British shipowners were charging £13 a ton. The Commonwealth line’s rates were a considerable benefit to the Australian farmer.
Sir Victor Wilson, who was a Minister in the Bruce-Page Government, said in this Parliament in 1923 -
I draw attention to the fact that the intervention of the Commonwealth Shipping Line was responsible for a reduction in freights to Tasmania of 30s. a ton.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech this evening, included the little island of Tasmania among the far-flung outposts which he said would be exploited.
The statement I have just cited refutes that allegation, and it reveals one reason why the desire is still alive among our people for the return of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, because a government-owned line will give to this country not only security in time of war but also will be of great benefit to the nation from a trading point of view. The late Senator Ogden, of Tasmania, interjected when Sir Victor Wilson was speaking about the Commonwealth lim’ and said -
It saved the fruit-growers this year 6d. a case in freight on their fruit.
An extraordinary case was built up against the line. Everywhere, the destruction of the line was canvassed. The t’ight honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was writhing in battle with the forces opposed to him at that time, said in this House on the 9th November, 1927, that the saving to producers as the result, of the operation of the line was approximately £1,000,000 annually. Speaking against the proposal to sell the line he quoted from cables proving that it had refused to- increase freight rates. At that time there was a campaign of calumny against the. line and its manager, the allegation being made that the line was in the combine set up to increase charges. The right honorable member for North Sydney was denounced by the parliamentary committee of the Australian Country party for making the statement which I have just cited ; and “ the old warrior “ replied -
The position is that cables which prove conclusively that but for the Commonwealth line freights would have been raised are not read and are not referred to. I produced them and so let the cat out of the bag. And then this Committee of the Country party has the calm effrontery to censure me.
These facts and statements prove thai the line was responsible for keeping freights down and that Liberal and Country party members did consider the line to be a national asset. While that controversy was proceeding, that asset which belonged to the nation was thrown aside for a paltry £1,900,000, of which £400,000 was never paid. That asset was just tossed aside, and no serious attempt was made to obtain payment of the sum. outstanding. And, as we know, the archconspirators who purchased the line, later found themselves on the inside of His Majesty’s prison walls. Thus the disposal of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers became an ugly episode in the history of this country. But at that time there were men who took a broad view of this country’s future. One such man was Mr. Mark B. Young, who had had considerable banking experience. He contributed an article on the subject to the Sydney Sun, of the 10th May, 1927, in which the following striking statement occurred : -
Beyond all question, the Commonwealth Shipping Line is showing indirect benefits to the people of the Commonwealth. When it reduced freights in July, 1926, the Prime Minister said he presumed that the combine would follow suit. It did so, but the credit of bringing about the reduction is entirely due to the Commonwealth line. It was estimated that the annual saving to shippers came to £522,896. That was one result; but what has been lost sight of is that, instead of a reduction of over half a million a year being secured for the producers of this country, only for the existence of the Commonwealth line there would, beyond all shadow of doubt, have been a substantial increase in freights. It is quite conceivable that the increases would have been twice as much as the actual reductions made, so that the benefit of having the Commonwealth line in operation may be assessed, at, say, three times £552,986, or £1,508,088.
The line was worth that in the days when the anti-Labour parties wanted to destroy it ; it was worth that to the primary producers. But the Australian Country party now says, “ Do not let us have any of it “, whilst the Liberal party says, “ Let us preserve private enterprise “. Mr. Young’s article continued -
If the Commonwealth line is made a sacrificial offering on the altar of the combine, Lord Inchcape’s desire for higher and higher dividends will induce him to raise fares, as well as freights. With the Commonwealth line removed, Lord Inchcape would be the unfettered dictator of the terms upon which we might travel the seas or export our goods.
What a prophetic statement ! So soon as the line passed into the limbo of forgotten things, freights rose higher and higher. The whole sorry story is embalmed in our history. There are many aspects of the bill with which I could deal at great length, but the paramount issue is that the Government is now preparing to re-establish a Commonwealth shipping line. In doing so, it will be giving back to the people something that was taken from them, and I am sure that their reaction will be one of pleasure in ownership of a shipping line that will prove to be a vital factor in our national economy.
The sordid story is finished. The new day is here, with new promises for Australian shipping. The evidence piles up on all hands that something disastrous happened to Australia when it lost control of its own national shipping line. I congratulate the Government upon tersely, sincerely and with very sound Australianism nailing its colours to the mast. In this bill it is putting its objectives squarely before the people as, first, a national line of steamers; secondly, an adequate mercantile marine; and, thirdly, a thriving shipbuilding industry. Upon those objectives the foundations of the future of Australia are very soundly based indeed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beale) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Income Tax Bill 1949.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1949.
Entertainments Tax Bill 1949.
Without amendment -
Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill 1949.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence - R. B. Dakeyne.
Interior - J. W. Loorham.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for-
Department of the Interior purposes -
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Bayswater, Victoria. Muswellbrook, New South Wales. Wudinna, South Australia.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
g asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers : - 1 to 6. The facts of Mr. C. K. Downe’s military service are substantially as stated by the honorable member. He ‘was discharged from the Army, but was subsequently permitted to re-enlist as a result of representations mode through the Attorney-General to the Minister for the Army. He asked for a court-martial but himself realized that Army regulations made this impossible. At the time of Mr. Justice Clyne’s inquiry, Downe was a member of a commando unit, and was serving in the cypher section. Downe deliberately withheld that information from Mr. Justice Clyne, for entirely honorable reasons. These facts were brought to the Attorney-General’s attention last year by a responsible person, and the Attorney-General wrote to Downe on the 22nd July, 1948, the following letter: - “ Dear Mr. Downe,
I refer to your letter of 21st July, 1948.
I have had your Army career examined and I am pleased to be able to say that it is an excellent one.
Your re-enlistment in October, 1942, and your subsequent promotion to the Cypher Section, a very confidential section of the Army, not only with the approval but with the positive help of Colonel Prentice, Chief of Army Intelligence, have established that you not only served well as a soldier but that your loyalty and discretion are beyond question.
I think it no more than fair that a copy of this letter should be sent by me to Sir Marcus Clark, your employer whom I know well. If at any time either I or the Solicitor-General can do anything to prevent any injustice to you arising out of the question of your loyalty, you have my permission, in fact my invitation, to apply to either of us.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) H. V. Evatt.”
A copy of this letter was duly sent to Downe’s employer. The Government has accepted, and has acted without qualification on, Mr. Justice Clyne’s report. The Attorney-General’s letter to Downe does not go behind the judge’s finding, but emphasizes that Downe’s excellent military service since his release from internment has established his loyalty and discretion as a citizen. The Attorney-General wrote the letter because he thought it would be unfair if Downe were to be penalized further for what had happened before 1942. The Attorney-General believes that Downe was, and is, concerned only with his present good name which the Attorney-General thinks he has established. The Attorney-General believes that he has not requested and does not desire any pecuniary compensation; nor does the Attorney-General think any question of compensation arises in the circumstances of Downe’s case.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Repatriation Department under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, were distributed as follows: -
Armed Forces : Medical Services.
s. - On the 11th February, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding medical services for the wives and families of members of the AustralianRegular Army quartered at
Puckapunyal and Ingleburn. I have investigated this matter and desire to advise the honorable member as follows : -
The war-time regulations regarding the provision of medical treatment and hospitalization for members of the Australian Regular Army, which are still applicable, did not include provision, subsequent to the 27th March, 1942, for such facilities to be made available at public expense to their wives and children. Peace-time provisions in respect of medical attention for members of the AustralianRegular Army and their wives and children are at present being examined from the joint service aspect and in the light of the Government’s national health scheme.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490303_reps_18_201/>.